The second of two public hearings will be held during the April 6 Socorro City Council meeting on a proposed ordinance to raise the city’s gross receipts tax by .25 percent. This would effectively raise what’s commonly thought of as sales tax from .0744 to .0768. This coupled with the county’s recent passed GRT would bring the total to .0781.
The reasons Mayor Ravi Bhasker gives for needing the increased revenue is three-fold.
First, the GRT increase would be dedicated to economic development purposes, which would help attract possible new businesses to the community.
Second, by increasing the GRT the city would be able to get a low interest loan to start the engineering and feasibility study for an electric utility rather than contracting with Guzman Energy for eight percent.
A third reason, Bhasker points out is, “Survival.” That is, it is unknown how much GRT revenue there will be in the present COVID-19 business climate.
Since Bhasker has been mayor, the gross receipts tax has only been raised twice, by a total of 0.1875 percent. Most recently, Socorro County upped its gross receipts tax.
Bhasker noted most cities around Socorro are over eight percent.
“We have been frugal on how we have raised gross receipts tax,” he said at the March 2 city council meeting, noting for the average resident it would cost about $3.50 per month. The last increase for the city was in 2002. If the GRT rate increase is approved, it will put the tax at just under eight percent, which would go into effect on either July 1, 2020 or January 1, 2021.
Because of the social distancing directive by the governor and New Mexico Department Health, the city council’s public hearing will be conducted through the city’s website. In an effort to allow citizen participation, the City is asking residents to provide public input by logging onto www.gotomeet.me/CityofSocorro, clicking on “Join My Meeting,” and downloading the app.
In order to speak during the meeting, call toll-free 877-568-4106. The access code to enter the meeting is 600-711-285.
The meeting is also streamed live at www.socorronm.gov.
Responding to a postcard mailed by Socorro Electric Cooperative encouraging members to question the need to raise the Gross Receipts Tax, Bhasker told the Chieftain he welcomes all questions at the public hearing. He said he’s gotten no complaints since the first public hearing.
“But frankly, I haven’t heard anything,” Bhasker said. “As of today, nobody’s said anything to me about the proposed increase in the gross receipts tax. Period.”
He claimed the postcard had inaccuracies.
“I’m not sure why they are talking about this on a postcard, and I assume the mailing is paid for by the co-op people,” Bhasker said. “It doesn’t say if they are representing themselves as the Socorro Electric Cooperative, which they sign is as, or the owner/members. They don’t specify who is saying all this.”
He said it was important to allow the public to communicate with the board during open meetings.
Referring to the postcard, Bhasker said, “They ask a reasonable question. Why? I understand that. Ask a city council member. Yes.”