Peralta residents concerned about proposed mill levy for sewer system

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Nearly all the seats at the Peralta town hall meeting were filled with residents questioning a proposed 2 mill levy.

Mayor Bryan Olguin, Councillor Joseph Romero and Julie Pluemer, the town administrator, were not present at the meeting, so Mayor Pro Tem Michael Leon Otero presided.

Peralta (and Rio Communities) are the only municipality in the county without a mill levy, said Mayor Bryan Olguin in a phone interview. And currently, the town doesn't receive any of the property tax money collected by Valencia County because of it, Olguin said.

All property taxes go to the county and are distributed to school districts and municipalities that impose mill levies.

The proposed Peralta 2 mill levy would cost homeowners on average about $7 per month. The money the town would collect would be placed in the town's general fund to help pay for a Rural Infrastructure Project loan to build a wastewater collection system, said Councilor Kori Taylor.

In previous meetings, councilors and representatives from the town's engineering firm, Molzen Corbin, explained that due to the high water table and because of the large number of septic tanks, half of which have no permits and some that are open cesspools, there is a threat to water contamination.

The latest Valencia County master plan designated the Peralta/Bosque Farms area as a top priority for water protection.

A proposed Peralta sewage collection system has been in the works for a couple of years in anticipation of New Mexico Environment Department mandates that everyone be hooked up to a sewer system.

At the meeting, a couple of residents said they didn't want to subsidize someone else's sewer system, but other homeowners said there are a lot of elderly people without the money to update their systems.

"If water is contaminated and the EPA comes down on us to get something done, our property values will go down," he said.

Bosque Farms officials are considering allowing Peralta to hook up to their system. While the agreement hasn't been formalized, Peralta residents are concerned about receiving high sewer bills.

In previous meetings, Molzen Corbin estimated monthly charges to Peralta residents to be about $45.

A low-pressure grinder-pump system, similar to that in Bosque Farms, was recommended because of the low water table, and it is the least costly. The pumps are estimated to cost homeowners about $3,500.

Grants and low-interest USDA loans are being pursued to help offset costs to homeowners, and residents with newer, permitted septic tanks will likely not have to hook up to the sewer system for several years.

Otero said the system is going to be done in phases over several years, with the first phase being the main trunk line on N.M. 47.

Installing the main trunk along N.M. 47 will cost the town more if it is not done in conjunction with a scheduled DOT road improvement project in spring or summer 2015.

A resident living on Park Lane Circle just paid $4,500 for a leach field and said he would be paying increased property taxes for a system he would not be using.

A resident living on Valencia and La Ladera echoed the same frustration.

In general, residents were not against a mill levy for town improvements, they just didn't want to be taxed before all the facts and figures were ironed out.

"Bryan, Julie and Councilor Joe are in Washington right now asking for federal money," said Taylor. "We got shot down at (the) state. We're trying to get help."

The mill levy tax, if passed by voters, would be put into effect before the year is out.

Further discussion will take place at the next regular meeting, Wednesday, May 28, at Peralta Town Hall, 90 A. Molina Road.


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