After several fiscal years of having to make tough decisions regarding Los Alamos County’s budget due to uncertainties with Los Alamos National Laboratory’s gross receipts tax, the County Council was able to break that cycle Monday night.
The council unanimously voted to approve the $199,328,646 budget.
The relief came when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 11, which states prime contractors operating a laboratory facility in New Mexico are indeed subject to gross receipt taxes (GRT). This means Triad, which operates Los Alamos National Laboratory, will pay GRT to Los Alamos County.
The assurance that this revenue will be paid to the County allowed the Council to not only approve every department’s budget but also most of their requested budget options.
Plus, it allowed to the Council to replenish funding in several areas:
- Adding $300,000 to the $615,000 the County Manager’s office asked for the Progress through Partnering program, funds which are utilized to benefit regional economic development initiatives.
- Funding $1.5 million for local economic development programs and land/housing purchases.
- Increasing the money the County provides to Los Alamos Public Schools for its capital improvement projects from $500,000 to $1 million. This will be an annual expenditure.
The council also approved a slate of capital improvement projects:
- $5,120,000 for road reconstruction projects, which includes $3.75 million for Diamond Drive;
- $5.85 million for the multigenerational pool. Other recreational projects including the splash pad, improvements to the golf course and ice rink are in the final budget.
- Council also funded $200,000 for a design plan for the improvements to Deacon Street. The project is scheduled for 2021.
County Manager Harry Burgess
County Manager Harry Burgess told the Los Alamos Daily Post he is pleased with the final budget.
“Council was able to repopulate some funds that had been depleted in recent years due to low GRT returns and council also approved several new expenditures that addressed their strategic priorities,” he said.
Council Chair Sara Scott also told the Daily Post she is pleased with what council accomplished.
“The budget and the budget options reflect our strategic priorities and will help us move forward on the things the community cares about,” she said. “This includes investments in areas including housing, our business environment, social services and open spaces while making significant investments in infrastructure – close to 30 percent of our General Fund expenditures – in addition to $5.7 million for road projects and infrastructure related Capital Improvement Projects. We also retained more than 30 percent of our General Fund in reserves to enable continued County services during GRT fluctuations.”
Budget hearings began April 15 and were held April 16 before being completed on Monday.
During the final hearing, councilors commended County staff on their work on the budget.
“The staff does a fantastic in both assembling and presenting the information and it is really appreciated,” Councilor Antonio Maggiore said.
The budget may be finalized but now the work begins; as Burgess said, “the process went well … and we’ll be busy going forward.”