BY STEVEN LYNNE
Los Alamos County Manager
Welcome to the FY 2024 budget hearing season. I wanted to let everyone know that budget hearings start tonight at 6 pm in Council Chambers and you can also stream the hearings using the following zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82683176848
I want to remind the community that this is your budget, and that budgeting is a communal event. The overall goal is to move the County in a direction that the community wants to go. Of course, there is not a single direction and sometimes specific goals can conflict, but that is all part of the process. County staff propose a budget, the community provides input, and the County Council considers all of this, makes any adjustments, and then decides on a budget.
So, what is this year’s proposed budget about? It is about our county’s future. That can be said of most of our past budgets, but it is even more evident in this proposed budget. How do we, collectively, ensure that the budget supports the future community you all want? There are three examples of this that I want to highlight.
First is a proposed new 0.5% gross receipts tax (GRT) increment. On the surface this may initially seem counterintuitive. After all, LANL is hiring, and the County’s GRT revenue is increasing. However, when we look at the long-term view, there are clear indications of why this is necessary. The most direct item is a significant projected decline in GRT revenue as LANL moves into pit manufacturing. Manufacturing has an exemption in state GRT rules. The newly proposed increase in GRT rate primarily offsets a projected long-term revenue decrease. In the near-term, this new GRT increment will also help bolster the County’s proposed capital plan.
The second example is the proposed capital plan. Last year’s budget introduced some large new items into the County’s future capital planning to pursue significant goals like downtown revitalization, housing, and community broadband. This year those items have shifted forward and are now included in the current proposed plan. In addition, we now have much better information about the County’s recreation assets and the capital plan has been enhanced even further to enable more robust and timely replacement and improvement of those assets.
The last example is a proposed increase in the Fire Department budget. The County and DOE have a Cooperative Agreement (CA) that governs how the County will provide enhanced fire support services to LANL. This interrelationship, interdependence and cooperation is just one noteworthy instance of how important intergovernmental relations are, especially for our community. The CA is a win-win for DOE and the community. The proposed increase for staffing in the Fire Department helps meet the future needs of DOE and LANL. It also helps ensure that this win-win relationship continues into the future.
These are just a few highlights. I invite you to take a look at the proposed budget, which is available online at https://lacnm.com/FY24-Proposed-Budget and see if there is anything in there that interests you. Your feedback is an essential element in the budgeting process. The budget hearings are scheduled at 6 p.m. for tonight and tomorrow (April 17 and 18) and Monday and Tuesday of next week (April 24 and 25) in Council Chambers, 1000 Central Avenue, Los Alamos. Public comments will be accepted at the beginning of each hearing. You can do so in person or via Zoom. That Zoom link again is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82683176848.
Editor’s note: Please note that Mr. Lynne’s editorial was received by email at 11:08 a.m., Monday, April 17.