Gross receipts tax down in Los Lunas, affecting budget

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The Los Lunas Village Council approved the final budget for fiscal year 2012-13 last week. The deadline to submit the budget to the New Mexico Department of Finance Authority was July 31.

The estimated general fund revenue is close to $15 million, but the general fund expenses are nearly $17 million.

Balancing the budget required dipping into the current cash balance of a little better than $7 million, and will leave the village with about $2 million less in its beginning cash balance.

"When you spend more than you earn, you borrow from your savings, and that's essentially what the village is doing," said Los Lunas Village Administrator Gregory Martin.

The village is required to maintain one-twelfth of the total budget in reserves, about $1.4 million or one month's worth of expenditures, and so to have three times that amount in the ending cash balance is considered healthy, he said.

The village's cumulative gross receipts taxes show a decline by about 5 percent.

Last year, the village's GRT was about $9.8 million, and this year that figure is about $9.3 million, but the village is estimating 1 1/2 percent lower, or $8.3 million, expected GRT in this budget.

"One of the things the village, before me of course, has done a good job at is conservatively budgeting its revenue," Martin said.

Village employees will see a 1 to 2 percent salary increase adjustment, retroactive to July 1, to continue moving position salaries toward par with other municipalities. The village conducted a salary study a few years ago, and the council approved the increase adjustments.

At the same time, the village will save $89,000 on employee benefits from the switch to Lovelace's Premier HMO Hybrid plan from its former Presbyterian plan, and still provide a generous benefit package.

Four staff positions have also been reclassified for additional duties they are performing, and their salaries will be adjusted as the council directs.

These include an animal control officer, who has functioned more as a code enforcer. The administration eliminated the animal control position, and now all of the code enforcement officers will add animal control to their duties, Martin said.

Another reclassification was a computer technician who was labeled a desktop technician but received certification for a higher grade, and an administrative assistant who has taken on more responsibilities in the human resources department, and so the title has been changed to "human resource specialist."

The final position was called an "accounting clerk," and they have taken on more responsibilities in procurement, so the position is reclassified as a "purchasing specialist." All procurements will now be handled under one office.

The largest expense planned for the new fiscal year is $1.3 million for the purchase of land and the relocation of families for the Morris Road corridor.

The second largest project, budgeted at $750,000 from the general and infrastructure funds, are improvements to the administration parking lot with rain water drainage and road improvements to Don Pasqual that include landscaping.

Another project is phase two of the village transportation center, budgeted at a total of $950,000.

Phase two will include a master plan for the entire site, about three acres the village owns surrounding the center, plus improvements to the facility that include more office and tenant space, significant landscape improvements, such as shade trees, benches, loading areas, and bus shelters, said Christina Ainsworth, the village's community development director.

Landscape improvements to the entire site are planned first, and a re-configuration of existing parking areas to add landscaping improvements.

The village is also starting the process to obtain a loan to buy more filters for the Membrane Bioreactor, the new wastewater filtering system at the village waste water treatment plant.

When the village took on the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, it was like adding 1,600 homes to the system, Martin said. The plant is currently working near or at its filter capacity, but can handle a greater volume with additional filters.

When the rest of the filters are installed, the plant can operate at twice the current quantity.

Of the village's debts, one GRT revenue bond series, 2003A, has been completely paid off, but that allows the payment on the second GRT revenue bond series to jump from about a $100,000 annual payment to $650,000 for 2012-13.

"I'm not going to say the village is sitting pretty — its holding its own," Martin said. "It's still having to rely on a fund balance to make up for the expenditures being higher than the estimated revenues.

"The growth, while it was good for many years, has died down as much as anywhere else," he said. "And so we're still dealing with that loss of revenue, but in terms of being able to complete the projects we have had on the drawing board, in terms of being able to provide limited salary adjustments, we're able to do that where many places are having to cut back programs, cut back services, lay off employees and give no raises at all.

"So, we're fortunate that way, but we also have to continue our conservative budgeting approach and scrutinize our spending to keep it in line with our revenue," Martin said.

The total budget, including the general fund, special revenue funds, enterprise funds and capital outlay funds, has an estimated income of $32.3 million with expenses estimated at $35.5 million and a beginning cash balance of $15.9 million and an ending cash balance of $12.6 million.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.