The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Clovis aims to educate public on GO bonds

Meetings about ballot questions, proposed property tax hike set.


January 21, 2018

CLOVIS — The city of Clovis is embarking on a process even optimists know is a hard sell — property tax hikes to pay for up to $20 million in infrastructure and quality of life improvements in the next four years.

A series of informational meetings are set throughout February to inform citizens on three questions that will appear on the March Clovis municipal election ballot beyond the municipal judge and five city commission positions.

“We’re going to go ahead, try and educate our citizens on what GO (general obligation) bonds are, why we’re looking into utilizing GO bonds for capital improvements, what the questions are and how it would potentially impact them from a property tax standpoint,” Clovis City Manager Justin Howalt said.

Meetings are scheduled for:

• 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Youth Recreation Building

• 1 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Friendship Senior Center

• 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at Living Stones Community Church

• 11 a.m. Feb. 13 at La Casa Senior Center

• 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at Kingswood United Methodist Church

• 8 a.m. Feb. 15 at the Baxter-Curren Senior Center.

The questions presented to Clovis residents are, “Shall the city of Clovis issue up to ...”

• Question 1: “$10 million of general obligation bonds, to be repaid from property taxes, for the purpose of designing, constructing, repairing, preserving, rehabilitating, enhancing and otherwise improving roads?”

• Question 2: “$5 million ... for the purpose of designing, constructing, repairing, preserving, rehabilitating, enhancing and otherwise improving senior centers?”

• Question 3: “$5 million ... for the purpose of designing, constructing, repairing, preserving, rehabilitating, enhancing and otherwise improving wellness centers?”

If all three questions are approved, an additional $7.80 would be collected per $1,000 of taxable property value — measured in New Mexico as one-third of assessed property value.

Of that $7.80, Question 1 accounts for $3.90, while Questions 2 and 3 each account for $1.95.

A brochure from the city explains property tax impacts for homes of various values. A Clovis resident with a home assessed at $150,000 has five possible outcomes:

• $390 additional property tax annually if all three questions are approved.

• $292.50 additional property tax annually if Question 1 and either Question 2 or 3 are approved.

• $195 additional property tax annually if only Question 1 is approved, or if only Questions 2 and 3 are approved.

• $97.50 additional property tax annually if only Question 2 is approved or only Question 3 is approved.

• No tax change if all three questions fail.

If approved, the city would put bonds on a four-year cycle, with the first renewal vote set for 2022. The city can either keep the questions the same or focus the question towards other projects.

“You can only go out for the bonds every four years,” Howalt said. “It’s just like the school’s (process).”

Question 1 would go entirely to the portion of Seventh Street between Norris and Main. That portion of road would be widened and receive drainage improvements, bike lanes and sidewalks. Howalt said the project is at about 60 percent design, and there is no money currently set aside for the work.

Question 2 would go towards the planned senior center at Hillcrest Park, just south of the Wellness Center, also known as the Clovis Aquatic Center or the former Play Inc. pool. The center, to be built in a phased process south of the Wellness Center, is expected to run about $6.9 million.

The building would be 25,750 square feet and include the Curry Resident Senior Meals Association, adult day care, housekeeping and chore programs. There are two awards from the state worth $300,000 for the center, but both have deadlines — June 30 of next year for $50,000 and July 31, 2021 for another $250,000.

The new center’s role in relation to existing senior centers is still to be determined. The city does not operate either Baxter-Curren or La Casa Senior Center, and any decision on the future of the city-owned Friendship Senior Center is unlikely to take place before the new senior center is complete.

Question 3 would begin Phase 2 of the Wellness Center renovation, approximately 10 years after the completion of Phase 1. The second phase would include weight rooms, locker rooms and a pool for therapy and swimming lessons.

The GO bond route, Howalt said, is being sought because the city is at its statutory limit for a gross receipts tax rate.

City Finance Director LeighAnn Melancon has said GRT revenues currently applied to areas addressed in the questions would be freed up for general expenses and to offset the phase-out of hold harmless.

Five years ago, the state began phasing out the program which reimburses municipalities for revenues they lost when GRT was waived for groceries and prescription drugs.

The city has permission from the state to add up to three GRT hikes — one-eighth of a percent each — beyond statutory limits due to hold harmless losses. The commission approved the first one last March to push the GRT rate to 8.1875 percent, but not even all three would cover the projected losses over the next decade.

Howalt figures each meeting will last about an hour.

“I haven’t heard any negative reaction at this point,” Howalt said. “I think people realize there are capital improvements that need to be made. We need to find a way to fund those capital improvements. You expect to hear people for and against it, but hopefully we do a good job of explaining our needs.”

Residents who wish to vote in the March 6 election must be registered on or before Feb. 6. This will also be the first city municipal election requiring voters present photo identification at the polling site.


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