County lodgers tax board appointed

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Now that Socorro County is collecting lodgers tax, an advisory board is needed to oversee how those funds will be spent.

So far, it’s not a lot of money. County Manager Delilah Walsh told the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, Feb. 28, that lodgers tax receipts amount to between $150 and $200 per month, which is roughly $1,800 to $2,400 per year.

“It only applies to the lodging industry within the county proper and not in the incorporated areas of Socorro and Magdalena,” Walsh said.

The county commission passed an ordinance imposing the 3 percent tax on Sept. 13, 2011. The Lodgers Tax Advisory Board was created at the same time, and calls for five members, two from the lodging industry, two from tourist related industries, and one from the general public. The members were officially approved by the county commission on Tuesday.

The two appointees from the lodging industry are Linda Brown, owner of Fite Ranch Bed and Breakfast, and Phoebe Woods, owner of Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast. Socorro County Chamber of Commerce Director Terry Tadano and city of Socorro Tourism Director Jennifer Gonzales were appointed to represent the tourism industry. At the suggestion of Commissioner Phillip Anaya, Stephen Rosas was appointed as the member from the general public.

The terms of all five members will expire in two years, on Dec. 31, 2013, although they can serve up to two additional successive terms.

Lodgers tax receipts are collected from hotels, motels, RV parks and bed and breakfast places, and can only be spent to promote tourism and tourist related activities. The board’s role will be to advise the county commission on how best to spend the money.

Credit Cards

The county manager, four volunteer fire department chiefs, the sheriff and the county’s emergency manager will soon be given credit cards to use in case of emergencies. Permission was granted by the county commission for Walsh to apply for a corporate credit card account with First State Bank, with seven cards to be issued on that account. The commissioners also approved a policy governing how those cards can be used, and the penalties for misuse.

The San Antonio, Abeytas, La Joya and Hop Canyon Volunteer Fire Departments will each have a $500 credit limit. The Sheriff’s Office and the county Emergency Management Department will also have $500 limits. The county manager’s limit will be $5,000.

Walsh said the concern was that in emergency situations the fire departments and emergency manager needed to be able to purchase supplies immediately, without waiting for a purchase order to be approved and opened. Commissioner Danny Monette suggested adding the Sheriff’s Office to the list for those times when deputies are transporting prisoners to other counties and have tires, belts or gaskets blow out while they’re out on the road.

Walsh said the interest rate on the cards will be 13.6 percent, but by paying the balances in full every month, the county shouldn’t have to actually pay any interest.

According to the policy, all receipts for credit card purchases have to be turned in immediately. Any unauthorized use of a card will be considered an advance of future wages and will be taken out of the employee’s next paycheck, and the employee will be subject to disciplinary action.

However, volunteer fire department chiefs aren’t paid employees.

“We can’t garnish wages if they don’t get paid so we’d have to enter settlement agreements or file charges if they are misused,” Walsh wrote in an email on Thursday.

In Other Business

  • With Commissioner Monette abstaining from participating, the commission approved the purchase of a truck for the County Road Department from Monette Ford for $29,039. Walsh said it was the only bid received on the RFP.
  • The commission decided to put the question of a general obligation bond to fund the building of a new jail on the general election ballot in November. Monette said not having a separate election to decide the question would save the county about $15,000 to $18,000 and give the county more time to inform the public. Commissioner R.J. Griego said it would be helpful if Walsh’s office drew up a list of talking points so that all the commissioners are on the same page when discussing the matter with their constituents.
  • Approval was given for the Sheriff’s Office to apply for $26,600 from the state Law Enforcement Protection Fund, to buy a new police car. Walsh said the county is eligible for the funds based on the number of officers it employs and the population served.
  • The division of precinct 16 into two parts, to balance the county’s population among the five districts per the redistricting plan approved in January, was made official by the passage of Resolution 2012-44. The northwestern portion of Precinct 16 is now Precinct 16B and is included in District 2. The remainder of 16 has been renamed 16A, and is now included in District 4.
  • The next meeting of the Socorro County Board of Commissioners will be on Tuesday, March 13 at 10 a.m. in the County Annex on Neel Avenue.

 


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.