Views on the Rio Rancho Tax Vote (revised)

A special election is now under way in Rio Rancho. The vote will determine whether or not to reduce the gross receipts tax in the City by 1/8th of a cent. The tax will actually go down by 1/8th of a cent. Rio Rancho’s City Council plans to re-impose the 1/8th cent tax to pay for additional police and fire in the City.

Because it would on-net lower taxes, RGF is supportive of the ballot measure as written, but we’d like to have seen the tax repealed with no tax added for public safety. We strongly encourage Rio Rancho’s City Council NOT to impose this tax increase. We haven’t seen clear evidence that crime is out of control in Rio Rancho and if it were, this is THE core function of government and adequate police and fire should be handled first with other spending taken care of later. Here is some information comparing Rio Rancho to other localities on crime.

A few other points:

As we have pointed out in the past, New Mexico has too many branch campuses. In fact, CNM and Highlands already have campuses in Rio Rancho. It would seem that with New Mexico’s flagship university, UNM, a half hour drive from most Rio Rancho residents, that voting against continuation of the tax would not make one “anti-education.”

Also, even if voters vote down reducing the tax, it would seem that Councilors who have supported the ballot measure have won some concessions from UNM to be more aggressive in providing services to the City.

According to RGF research, Rio Rancho has seen its tax burden increase a good deal in recent years and now trails only Albuquerque in terms of overall burden as a percentage of income. Given that Rio Rancho is competing most closely with Albuquerque for businesses and residents, it would seem that Rio Rancho should focus on positives like lower crime, better schools, and lower taxes (already slightly lower, but could be better).

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7 Replies to “Views on the Rio Rancho Tax Vote (revised)”

  1. Thanks Mr. Gessing for this well-written, rationally sound argument in favor of the reduction of the higher ed grt here in Rio Rancho. I think you hit the nail on the head when you state, that it is “THE core function of government” to ensure that public safety is provided for first.

    We know, and acknowledge that Rio Rancho is still the safest city in New Mexico, and we credit Chief Boone for being able to do so without proper for so long. One area that goes largely unoticed when speaking about public safety is the fire department and right now we are horribly understaffed. In fact, there is often times only two responders on duty at any given station, and there is a minimum requirement of three when going to a fire emergency.

    If they don’t have at least three responders, then firefighters cannot enter a burning building, even if they hear screams coming from inside. Also, our city hasn’t fallen victim to even greater crime because the current staff have been working so much overtime. We’re talking 60-80 hour weeks for just about everyone. By hiring more police officers, we can save money by not having to pay so much in overtime and our current officers won’t get burned out and can spend more time with their families.

    Thanks again for your write up, and all your hard work that you do with the Rio Grande Foundation! It is truly appreciated!

  2. Paul

    It is my understanding that the referendum would reduce the tax by 1/8th. The new tax would be imposed by 18th. Thus making the net tax unchanged.

  3. Thank you for backing our councilors in their effort to make a step in the right direction to begin correcting the trouble the “tax and spend” prior councilors put the citizens into. Our Santa Fe members didn’t see fit to stand with us in supporting us. And sadly they were supported by us the citizens. I for one won’t do it again.

    Again a thank you for your bold stand. I appreciate it completely.

    Respectfully,

    Jean Montoya
    A Rio Rancho resident!

  4. How would this shifting of 1/8 % tax “on net” lower taxes? Keep in mind the Higher Ed. tax has a sunset date. The Public Safety tax doesn’t. Further, the state will not give Rio Rancho their Hold Harmless funding, so the City Council will make up for that money by taking it out of Reserves. Our Reserves will cover 1 year, then we have have no reserve and no state funded Hold Harmless money coming in. Lastly, there is no guarantee that the 1/8 % will stay for Public Safety. The proposal the City Council has offered gives them the ability to amend where the funds go at any time, for any reason. This gives government even more control to do what ever they want at will with no public input.

    1. Ms. Atwood, your comment that the state will not give Rio Rancho their Hold Harmless funding is incorrect. There are some state elected officials bringing up the idea, but it is just comments by a few and not likely to be passed in a 30 day session next year and will have considerable protest by many cities and counties. How riduculous to punish cities and counties for following the laws the state legislature wrote. Those state elected officials that are unhappy about Las Crusas, Santa Fe, and Rio Rancho looking at implementing a sales tax that they made legal in the last 20 minutes of their session, should take a lesson from this. If that is not what they intended the law to be.,maybe they should read the laws and think them through before voting on them.

  5. Thanks for the reader input above. I have revised the piece above somewhat, but remain convinced that the best possible outcome is for the ballot measure to pass and then for RR’s City Council NOT to re-impose the 1/8th cent tax which in theory will be dedicated to public safety. There is a 15 year sunset on the current higher ed tax, but politicians generally find ways to convince voters to keep paying the tax, so we don’t see the sunset as a strong argument one way or the other.

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