County talks taxes for jail space

Tony Parra

The Roosevelt County Commission at Tuesday’s meeting discussed the probability of raising taxes to fund additional space for the county detention center.
The cost would run between $3.6 to $5.2 million depending on size.
A couple of the options discussed to foot the bill would either be an increase of a gross receipt tax or a property tax. The gross receipt tax in Portales is 6.8125 percent, which is in the top ten out of all of the New Mexico community gross receipt tax rates.
Out of the 6.8125 percent, 1.56 goes to city, .75 goes to county and 4.5 goes to state.
Kevin F Powers, vice president of Municipal Fixed Income Division Public Finance for RBC Dain Rauscher presented the commission with the tax options, which would pay for adding on to the detention center. A property tax would mean $24 to $53 annually for property owners whose property is worth $50,000 and above and $50 to $100 dollars per year for property owners whose property is worth $100,000 and above.
“I can’t get exited with a property tax,” commissioner Tom Clark said. “A property tax would not be fair because not everybody owns property. It gets passed so easily, but I’m tired of paying for everybody else.”
County officials discussed the gross receipt and property taxes for more than an hour during the meeting.
“I agree with Tom, it’s (property tax) not fair to everybody,” commissioner Gene Creighton said. “A gross receipt tax is harder to pass, but if we have a property tax, then the non-property owners pay nothing.”
In any case for any tax, the proposal would have to be voted on in either a special election or included in the general election in November of 2004.
Robert Calvani, principal in charge of NCA Architects, presented a Roosevelt County Detention Center feasibility study which showed two options for a new detention center.
Scheme A was a floor plan blueprint of a larger facility which would add 156 beds in new cell block and 35 additional beds in the existing juvenile cells. This facility would accommodate an additional 191 inmates. The cost of this facility would be 5.2 million dollars.
Currently the RCDC has 59 beds. Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator Jesse Luera stated the inmate total has been fluctuating from 11 to 16 inmates over capacity.
Scheme B was a floor plan blueprint of larger facility than the current detention center, but smaller than the facility in Scheme A. The detention center would have an additional 167 beds but no beds for juveniles. The cost of this facility would be $3.6 million.
The need to add on to the current detention center stems from the overcrowding of inmates there.
Roosevelt County sends its adult inmates to places such as Dickens County at a rate of $38 per inmate a day, which is about $16 cheaper than housing inmates at the RCDC, commissioners said.
But commissioner Dennis Lopez said other facilities could raise the costs in the future, so adding more space to the county jail is important.
“It’s a good deal but at any time they could raise the rate they charge us per inmate,” Lopez said.