Madame Chair and members of the Los Alamos County Council,
At this initial stage of the budget process I have a simple message and request. On page 52 of the proposed budget https://losalamosnm.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_6435726/File/FY2020%20Proposed%20Budget.pdf you will see property tax revenues of $7,507,880. For the following reasons I urge you to direct staff to reduce that number to $6,000,000:
First, with the overall increase in forecasted revenues (over $10 million more than last year) and a beginning fund balance of over $10 million more than last year, you have over $21 million more available than last year and you do not need that much property tax revenue; as a matter of fact you should also reduce the Gross Receipts Tax rates,
Second, the high cost of housing (which includes property taxes) in Los Alamos is a disincentive for the best and the brightest to come to live and work in Los Alamos; my recommended action would result in an average 20 percent to 25 percent reduction in property taxes,
Third, whether through mill levy elections or bond elections, property taxes are the only way our public schools can secure funding to improve our school facilities and infrastructure; the schools need property tax headroom,
Finally, in generating the $7.5 million number the staff did what you might expect; however, if that number is in what you send to the state, come next June or July you will get a non-negotiable message from the state instructing you to adopt property tax mill levies to generate that much money and when you put that on the Council agenda for a hearing, the room will be full of angry citizens protesting a tax increase.
Thank you for your attention. I hope that I don’t have to come next June or July and say “I told you so”.