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BernCo Gets $30M Tax Hike

BernCo Gets $30M Tax Hike

County To Spend $33M To Renovate $4M Building

It was tax and spend night Tuesday at the Bernalillo County Commission.

The commission approved a $30 million tax hike and voted to buy a Downtown building for $4.1 million and spend $33 million to renovate it.

The 3-2 vote to hike the gross receipts tax by three-sixteenths of a cent and buy the building came after very little debate. Less than a handful of people showed up to speak against the tax increase.

Commissioners voted to dedicate one third of the tax increase, or $10 million, to public safety and things like new vehicles and other equipment for sheriff’s deputies and firefighters.

The commission’s three Democrats—Debbie O’Malley, Maggie Hart Stebbins and Steven Michael Quezada—voted for the tax increase and the building purchase, while Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert opposed them.

The tax increase will take effect July 1 and will raise the GRT in the city to 7.5 percent. Each one-sixteenth of a cent raises about $10 million. The increase will add 18.75 cents to the cost of a $100 purchase.

It was the county’s second GRT increase in two years. In 2015, the commission imposed a three-sixteenths of a cent increase to fund general operations and a program to treat people with drug addictions.

In the big spending move, the commission also approved $4.1 million to buy the Alvarado Square building Downtown that the county will use as its headquarters. But buried in a second resolution was the cost of renovating the 282,000-square-foot building: $33 million.

County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said the purchase of Alvarado Square will allow the county to consolidate its services and employees in one building and move them out of six buildings scattered throughout the Downtown area and the South Valley. Those six buildings will be sold, she said.

“It is a good deal for taxpayers,” Baca said.

Vic Bruno, the county’s real estate consultant, said the $37 million combined purchase and renovation price of Alvarado came out to $128 a square foot, or about half of what it would cost if the county bought land and built a new building.

Johnson said it appeared the county was raising taxes to buy a building. But Deputy County Manager for Finance Shirley Ragin said the county would sell GRT revenue bonds to finance.

Johnson said it wasn’t right for the county “to dig into people’s pockets,” especially when New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the country. He added that the GRT is a regressive tax that disproportionately affects poor people.

Hart Stebbins said the easy decision would have been to reject the tax increase, but that “it cost money to provide good services.”

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Michael
    March 28, 2017, 10:47 pm

    The cost of the building is very low as it has zero parking , has been on the market for multiple years, and there’s very little demand for a building that size in Albuquerque. However, I’m not sure why they’re paying $4.1 million when the price was reduced to less than that. I recall seeing an earlier figure of $2.7 million quoted. As for the cost of renovations, that is an obscene amount. The neighboring Simms Building which measures about 90,000 square feet was purchased for $1.75 million a few years ago and completely renovated at a cost of about $6-7 million. However that building was in far worse shape with outdated and partially non-functional building systems whereas Alvarado Square was being used by PNM just a few years ago and was apparently functional at that time. The county’s renovation budget is about $117 per square foot. I work in the commercial real estate industry and I’ve seen office space completely gutted and rebuilt to good quality for about $50-60 per square foot. I would like to know exactly how they plan to spend that renovation budget because it is far above and beyond what is reasonable to create functional office space for the County.

    • Max Powers@Michael
      April 3, 2017, 9:43 pm

      Because no one cares except a few of us.

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