By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Four letters could have cost Quay County $300,000 in potential revenue from a gross receipts tax the county has proposed to finance most of an independent emergency communications dispatching system.
The county commission held an emergency meeting Monday morning to set aside the measure that would have imposed a “county area” gross receipts tax. The commissioners then held a public hearing and passed the first reading of an ordinance that would impose the tax “countywide.”
The difference, County Manager Richard Primrose explained, is that “county area” includes only non-municipality areas of the county. “Countywide” he said, includes the municipalities. That difference means the county is now likely to collect about $370,000 with a county-wide tax, instead of the $ 70,000 that was likely to result if only the county areas were included.
Primrose credited Larry Wallin, Logan’s village manager, with catching the error in the original ordinance, which the commissioner had already approved for placement on a ballot Sept. 16 for voter approval in a special election.
“There aren’t too many businesses in the county area,” Commissioner Mike Cherry observed.
To impose the tax beginning in January, Primrose said, the commission will have to hold another public hearing at its regular meeting Aug. 11 and another special meeting, scheduled for Aug. 20, to approve the tax in time to keep the Sept. 16 date for the special election.
The dispatch system serves the county, the city of Tucumcari, the villages of Logan and San Jon, Harding County, parts of San Miguel County and the state parks in the area. If voters approve the measure, it would make the dispatch system into an independent agency, which will end potential funding issues between the city of Tucumcari and the county on the system’s operations.
The city and county each provide 45 percent of the system’s funding out of general funds, with the remainder paid by the villages, the other two counties and the parks department. The dispatch center, however, is administered by the city of Tucumcari.
Tucumcari Assistant Fire Chief Scot Jaynes is the manager of the facility, but it operates from Tucumcari Police Department headquarters with police department personnel.
City and county officials agree that making the communications center independent will help resolve personnel and operations issues that involve funding, since the dispatch center would not have to compete with other functions financed through the general funds for the city and county.
Tucumcari City Manager Doug Powers said last year’s operational budget for the dispatch center was $354,198. Tucumcari and Quay County each pay 45 percent of these costs, at $159,389 each.