By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The Quay County Commissioners plan further discussion and research on whether to hold a special election in September on a new gross receipts tax to help pay for Quay County’s central emergency radio dispatch system.
“This is issue and service that is vital to all of the residents,” said Richard Primrose, county manager. The commission discussed the matter at a meeting held Monday in the Village of Logan council chambers.
Primrose recommended that the special election be scheduled early.
Ellen White, chief deputy county clerk, explained why. “If you wait to add the question to the November ballot, you would not see funding until July, 2015,” she said. Tax funds could be collected starting Jan. 1 with a September election, she said.
The proposed tax, officially entitled “County Wide County Area Emergency Communication and Emergency Medical and Behavioral Health Service Tax,” would be a one-fourth of 1 percent gross receipts tax. It would generate around $370,000 to fund central dispatch.
That would fund a major portion of the dispatch center’s annual budget that is projected to be over $500,000 for 2014. Dispatch operations currently are paid for out of the general funds of all agencies using the service.
“The cost of this service continues to rise and without a primary funding source like the proposed tax, the Village of Logan might have to raise the prices of other services to offset that rising cost,” said Larry Wallin, Logan’s village manager.
Wallin said the tax would also give all the participating communities more direct control over central dispatch. He said the other communities would have more input on training and could even move central dispatch to an independent location.
Currently, central dispatch is located inside the Tucumcari Police Department. Tucumcari’s assistant fire chief Scot Jaynes is the day-to-day manager of the dispatch center.
The Tucumcari/Quay Regional Emergency Communication Board, made up of representatives from the agencies that use the system, oversees central dispatch.
Wallin said the tax would allow independent funding of central dispatch, which would allow the board could more direct control and provide opportunities for low-interest loans to help develop the new governmental agency, along with funding for higher wages and additional training for the dispatchers.
The cost of holding a special election would be around $7,500, County Commissioner Mike Cherry pointed out, and he said all the agencies involved should split the cost of the election.
Cherry said that further discussion is needed to work out the details of the proposed tax and the possibility of relocating central dispatch. He said this more than likely will be the focus of the Tucumcari/Quay Regional Emergency Communication Board’s meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Tucumcari Convention Center.
Other items before the commissioners included:
• A public hearing on a proposed ordinance creating a Safety Net Care Pool. The ordinance is mandated in state legislation passed in the 2014 session. No one spoke at the hearing. The county will pay an amount equivalent to one-twelth of 1 percent in gross receipts taxes under the pool fund. The fund replaces the Sole Community Provider fund as the means of financing health care to the poor. An additional reading and hearing will be held at the commission’s May 12 meeting.
• Approval of the 2015’s Rural Primary Health Care Act funding for the Quay County Family Health Center.
• Approval of a loan agreement for the purchase of a fire tanker for the Bard-Endee Fire Department.
• Approval of the nomination of Property Tax Protest Board members Keith Bowen and Tonya Rigdon, with Linda Griggs as an alternate.
• Approval of an application for Community Development Block Grant funds of $500,000 for road work.
• Approval of the third-quarter financial report to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
o Scheduling May 12 as the date of the commission’s 2014-2015 budget development workshop.