The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


County Line—Balancing the budget


With a few exceptions, planning for future expenses and revenues of such a rapidly growing area as Sandoval County is similar to establishing a “livable” budget for a family or business.

The County’s extensive services and programs that benefit growing numbers of residents are more complex, and the numbers, by necessity, contain more zeros than most of us will ever confront in our personal lives. Satisfying the obligation to prudently and wisely allocate taxpayer dollars—while improving and enhancing services for residents—is another aspect that greatly magnifies the importance of establishing a balanced County budget.

Yet, the basic budgeting process for a household or business also applies to Sandoval County government, which provides a wide range of services to a diverse population—all with differing needs and expectations. You must first identify anticipated revenues and then allocate those dollars for future needs.

In the County’s budget process, the Commission and staff work hard for efficient, long-term solutions and allocate dollars at sufficient levels to meet needs—both now and in the future.

The Commission recently gave preliminary approval of a $96.39 million budget for the County’s fiscal year that begins July 1. In terms of total dollars, the new budget reflects a twenty-six percent decrease over the prior year. Yet, without a one-time payment of $56.17 million for bond refinancing last year, the new budget actually reflects an increase of $22 million or about twenty-nine percent.

On the revenue side, about $19 million, or less than twenty cents of each dollar budgeted, will be received from property taxes. Most of the County’s revenues, about $77 million or eighty-one percent, come from a variety of sources ranging from grants, legislative allocations, and bond revenues to landfill fees and gross receipts tax.

The bulk of the budget is directly targeted to improve services and quality of life for County residents—without increasing tax rates.

More than $25.8 million, or about twenty-seven percent of the total budget, is allocated for community programs. Funding for programs directly benefiting residents is being increased by more than thirty-one percent, or $6.14 million over the prior year, to improve health, senior and DWI programs, and implement the County’s newly-launched transit system.

An additional $2 million, or almost twelve percent more, is being added to public safety operations so that the Sheriff, fire, and emergency services and the detention center can continue responding effectively to the needs of growing numbers of residents. To improve County roads and the landfill, an additional $5.6 million, or thirty-nine percent more, is being added to the Public Works functions.

Both public safety functions and Public Works each will receive more than twenty percent of the total budget.

About nine percent of the budget, or $8.9 million, is budgeted to pay for basic aspects of government, such as elections, tax assessing and collections, recording and filings, computers, utilities, maintenance, and insurance.

The balance of the budget is allocated for bond debt and cash reserves as required by the State.

Sandoval County’s preparations for the future are readily evident in a budget that allocates increased funds for the services and programs benefiting residents without increasing tax rates. For the years ahead, the Commission and staff must continue planning with the very best data and tools available, while also striving for partnerships and long-term solutions that provide the wisest use of taxpayer dollars.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him C/O Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, 87004.

T or C area is boom town, exploding with new plans

“Elephant Butte Lake has always been one of the biggest draws to Sierra County,” said State Parks Director Dave Simon. “The state park is better than ever and the new developments will both complement the existing recreation economy and become attractions in their own right.”

“Economic opportunities are exploding in Sierra County, and we expect more growth in the next couple of years with the implementation of the spaceport, golf course, and possibility of a racetrack,” said Walter C. Armijo, Vice Chair of the Sierra County Commission. “These improvements will have a huge economic impact for the County.”

Along with world-class fishing, boating, and other recreational opportunities at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Sierra County will also soon be home to the following proposed and new attractions:

• Turtleback Mountain Resort and Sierra Del Rio Golf Course—featuring an eighteen-hole championship golf course and a six-neighborhood development;

• Spaceport America—The Southwest Regional Spaceport, located thirty miles south of T or C at Upham, will be a major departure site for commercial space launches and is expected to positively impact Sierra, Doña Ana and Otero counties. Already, $200 million has been allocated for construction of Spaceport America;

• NASCAR-style track—Hot Springs Motorplex (a group of Florida investors) has proposed a NASCAR-style racetrack on an eight-thousand-acre tract of land near the T or C Municipal Airport.

World’s richest tombstone race run in Fort Sumner

The world’s richest tombstone race, The Billy the Kid Tombstone Race, with more than $4,000 in cash prizes was held on June 9, at the Fort Sumner High School Football Field.

The Tombstone Race drew more than nine hundred people from all over New Mexico as well as Utah, Texas, and Colorado. It is estimated the economic impact of this one-day event was more than $250,000 for the local economy. The race has gained national recognition, with features in the Wall Street Journal, People magazine and on the Today Show.

The tombstone, which marks Billy the Kid’s grave at Fort Sumner, has almost as much history as the famous outlaw himself. The stone has been stolen three times since placement by an historical society in the 1940s, and once spent twenty-seven years under a boxcar in Texas following a theft. After its most recent disappearance, the tombstone’s recovery in California was shown on national television.

The race is run over a simple, but grueling, twenty-five-yard course. In the open division, two hurdles of four and five feet must be scaled while carrying an eighty-pound stone during two laps of the four-lap race. In the women’s and the over-age-thirty-five divisions, contestants carry a twenty-pound stone and women have a step at the five-foot barrier.

Fort Sumner has successfully combined the legends of the late nineteenth century with the vision of the 21st century. The legendary outlaw Billy the Kid sought refuge from the long arm of the law in Old Fort Sumner, only to meet his demise there at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett. Today, Western enthusiasts from around the world flock to the village nestled along the Pecos River to view the final resting place of the “Kid.”

While many small towns in the area have disappeared, Fort Sumner has been able to absorb their service needs and take advantage of its location, climate, and progressive attitude to plan and prepare infrastructure for growth. Young people and retirees coming to the area attest to the desirability of lifestyle. It is said that one reason for Fort Sumner’s staying power is the tourism activities that are promoted by the Fort Sumner Chamber of Commerce.





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