By Russell Anglin
Quay County Sun
Robert Lumpkin’s message to Tucumcari residents on Thursday included a number of talking points, but one underlying theme.
“The City of Tucumcari is now in need to cut spending, cut services, or increase revenue,” Lumpkin said.
The Tucumcari City Commission tabled two tax ordinances at their regular Thursday meeting. City commissioners spent 1 1/2 hours Thursday night on the subject of taxes. The talks revolved around two ordinances. Ordinance 1083 would rededicate a capital outlay gross receipts tax currently dedicated to Ute Lake water to fund city renovation projects and 1084 would enact a 1/4 percent gross receipts tax for Tucumcari.
Lumpkin said he was ready to see the tax money re-allocated and the tax increase enacted. He pointed to a number of projected city expenses related to demolishing hazardous buildings in the city, paying for heavy machinery for the landfill, and allotting money for city water tank repairs.
“I think we can better utilize that money for Tucumcari. I want to attract some people that want to come to Tucumcari, and I don’t want to be accused of not doing something that other commisioners of the past could have done,” Lumpkin said.
Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Apodaca expressed his reluctance to pass the ordinance, citing the importance of Tucumcari’s Ute Lake water reserve.
“That water is very important to the city of Tucumcari. Not only agricultural, but residential and commercial use,” Apodaca said.
The commission eventually voted to table the ordinance. Commissioners plan to look at the ordinance at their Thursday work session, 9 a.m. at the Tucumcari Convention Center, to fine tune the wording of the document. If commissioners approve the ordinance, Tucumcari citizens will vote on whether or not to pass it.
The commission spent more time discussing the second proposed tax ordinance. Mayor Jim Witcher pointed out that the gross receipts tax increase, if passed by commissioners, could be challenged by a petition from Tucumcari citizens.
“In order for this community to go forward, we’re going to have to do something,” Witcher said. “If the public doesn’t like it, you have the right to change it, or change me, or any of us.”
Commissioner Jimmy Sandoval said he would not approve a tax increase, citing lack of voter support.
“The only reason that I refuse to do anything with taxes is we haven’t moved on anything in the last seven years,” Sandoval said. “I cannot come to pass the tax if we’re still in a standstill.”
Richard Talley, owner of the Motel Safari, expressed doubts that a tax increase would help business in Tucumcari, and said he would like to see more limitations on the ordinance.
“I would at least like to see wording that ... (specifies) what the purposes are and a moratorium on it, so a time limit, for the same reason that if five years down the road you want to use it for something else, you should ask permission again or vote on it again to continue that tax,” Talley said.
Thomas Even, chairman of the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board, said he agreed with Talley that limitations should be imposed on a tax increase ordinance, and said he felt the tax may be necessary.
“I know that gross receipts is a tough thing for business people to handle,” Even said. “However, I know that the working class has always supported this country. I don’t believe that overspending is going to do anything to help our economy at this point in time, but I do feel that for a tourist town, which is in my opinion about the only thing we’ve got going on right now, something’s got to be done.”
Commissioner Amiel Curnutt said Tucumcari has more future expenses than a gross receipts tax increase could cover.
“If we pass this gross receipts tax it’s only going to bring in a revenue of about $250,000 (per year). That’s not even going to fix the water tank if we need to fix it. This year’s budget is going to be about $100,000 short. We’re going to need the money, but I understand your reluctance to say it’s OK without some guidelines on it,” Curnutt said.
Kelly McFarland, who identified himself as a former Tucumcari School Board member, suggested the board bring the tax increase issue to a public vote. Lumpkin moved that the ordinance be tabled to rephrase the document and that the ordinance be brought to a vote by the public. The motion passed with Sandoval and Apodaca voting no.
Commissioners will meet at the Tucumcari Convention Center at 9 a.m. on Thursday.