By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Quay County Commissioners were puzzled by a state requirement to give local authorization for an expenditure required by state law, but on Monday they approved the first reading of an ordinance that authorizes the county to spend the money.
The commission voted to send about $113,000 in gross receipts tax funding to the state’s Safety Net Care Pool Fund to support health care to the poor for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The second reading, and final approval, is scheduled for the commission’s April 28 meeting to be held in the village of Logan Council Chambers, 108A Highway 54, Logan.
The New Mexico Human Services Dept. launched the Safety Net program last year, unilaterally ending the Sole Community Provider program in which counties had control over funding to care for the poor. The counties were able to match their funds with federal Medicaid funds under a 3-to-1 fund matching arrangement that contributed operating funds to hospitals like Quay County’s Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari.
Trigg Hospital lost $2 million lost between 2012 and 2013 due to cuts in Medicaid reimbursements from federal sources, administrator Lance Labine said.
In legislation passed this year, the New Mexico Legislature reinforced the Safety Net program and required the counties to provide an amount equivalent to one-twelfth of gross receipts taxes to support the program.
The County Commission on Monday also:
• Approved County Fire Marshall Donald Adams’ request to apply for a minimum of $740,000 from the New Mexico Fire Protection Fund to support the county’s nine fire districts. The amount actually received, he said, is usually more, but counties are required to request a certain minimum funding level for each fire district.
• Approved a $23,139 contract for audit services from Kubiak & Melton, an Albuquerque accounting firm.
• Approved renewing its membership for the year in the Eastern Plains Council of Governments for $2,216.
• Adopted a resolution that increases opportunities for veterans to obtain county jobs.
• Approved $1,500 in county funds to support the Tucumcari Public Library, which serves as the county library, too.
• Approved $4,500 in county funds to support U.S. Department of Agriculture and New Mexico Wildlife Services activities in the county.
The commission tabled an agenda item in which Franklin McCasland, manager of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District, would have sought commission approval for a Public Employee Retirement Association record for David McCasland, a volunteer firefighter for Rural Fire District III.
Commissioner Sue Dowell said that an individual appeal like this seems to bypass fire district officials, who should be consulted on PERA matters involving firefighters in their districts. On Dowell’s motion, the matter was tabled.
Dowell also asked the commission to reconsider pay levels for some county employees when planning next year’s budget. Starting pay pay levels of $9 per hour, she said, make it difficult to support a family. She also said that a 20-year county employee should be making more than $13.50 per hour, the rate at which some 20-year county employees are paid.
Commissioner Mike Cherry said that raising some entry-level pay levels without allowing raises across the board would create situations in which entry-level employees would be paid more than those with five years of experience in comparable positions.