Letter to the Editor: Clarification Of Taxing Authority

By RICK REISS
Los Alamos Councilor

I read Mr. Gerald Antos’ letter this morning (Jan. 5, 2016) and was reminded that our tax systems are complex and many people confuse school taxes and County taxes.  While I am not going to discuss the continuation of a tax or reduction of a tax, it is appropriate to distinguish where these taxes originate.

First, there is an invisible wall between a New Mexico county (any county) and a public school district. The school district is funded by the State through a complex funding formula. There are few opportunities for the citizens of a county to add to that funding. HB33 is one of those ways, but, it is a tax defined in State law not by the County.  Even the mill rate is set by the State.

The invisible wall is not as apparent because the property tax bill comes from the county so it might seem like a county tax. The county is simply the administrator for calculating each property’s tax, preparing the bill and then collecting the tax. The funds for HB33 are sent to the State, which remits it to the school district. We have been doing this since 1988. The citizens decide every six years if the tax should continue, not the “LA Government”.

Second, the use of the funds from HB33 are spent on computers, network infrastructure, musical instruments, athletic supplies and equipment and general maintenance of existing buildings. It is not used to build schools. With rapidly changing computer technology, money spent on student computers helps keep the school district ranked high in the nation. Keeping the roofs repaired and the walls painted keeps the old schools usable.

Los Alamos Public Schools are an important and valuable resource in our community. It is a major draw for new employees at the laboratory or the hospital or companies in the County. The state government controls the funding for the schools and Los Alamos Public Schools does well with its limited resources. The County Council has a stated strategic goal to support the public schools – but – the “LA Government” does not fund the schools.

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