'What happened to the money from the last hike?' - taxpayer interviewed in Nob Hill
Few Know BernCo is Raising Taxes at End of Month
BY JOHNNY VIZCAINO
Bernalillo County taxpayers are staring down the barrel of their second tax increase in two years, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to them.
Of 24 business owners, employees and patrons informally surveyed last week, three had “some idea” of the potential increase. The remaining 21 had “no idea” that their taxes are about to go up.
ABQ Free Press Weekly spent nearly three hours on Feb. 24 walking the sidewalks of Nob Hill to conduct its anecdotal survey. Some people we talked to wrongly thought the tax increase we were describing was being imposed on them to pay for Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
“I really don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff,” said Virginia, a cashier at the Nob Hill 7-Eleven. “It’s something we pay anyway, whether we want to or not. I kind of just go with the flow.”
Virginia wasn’t the only one feeling like she and her pocketbook were just along for the ride. Amanda Vigil, a student at UNM, said she feels powerless.
“I’m not really in a position to do anything about it,” Vigil said. “I kind of feel like a guinea pig in my own society.”
It’s hard to say how you really feel about something like a gross receipts tax increase when you’re unsure of who really benefits from it, she said. “It’d be upsetting if it went to ART, because I’m not a fan,” Vigil said.
Diane Gutierrez, manager of the El Paso Import Co., did have some idea of the proposed tax increase. “I don’t know the details, but I read about it,” she said.
Gutierrez said where the money will go is fuzzy. “Who is it taxing? Is it kind of nebulous?” she asked. “Is it for travel [costs] for commissioners? What’s the money for?”
Like others, she thought the money was going to the ART, which is a city project. “I don’t want it to go to that,” Gutierrez said, pointing to ART construction outside the store.
“What happened to the money from the last hike?” Gutierrez asked, referring to the $30 million tax increase the county levied in 2015.
Tamara Mahboub, co-owner of Nob Hill Furniture – now having an “everything must go sale,” thanks to its imminent closure, which its owners partly blame on ART – said most people don’t know what the gross receipts tax is, how much it costs, or much less where the money goes.
“That’s more concerning than the tax,” she said. “There’s been times where it’s gone up; there’s been times when it’s gone down. Unfortunately, now it’s going back up, which doesn’t surprise me.”
Folks over at Town House Antique Mall weren’t surprised to hear that their taxes might go up again.
“You listen to the news and everything, it keeps saying the city’s broke, and of course it’s gonna go up,” said Carl Calanni, an independent clock repairman, who believes that, ultimately, people won’t be able to afford the luxury he and his colleagues provide.
“You can’t eat antiques,” said Sean Herrington, whose family owns the store. “And when you’re taxing the hell out of people, they have less and less money to spend, and that’s less and less money coming into the local economy.”
Johnny Vizcaino is a reporter with ABQ Free Press Weekly.