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County looking at tax hike

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By David Giuliani

San Miguel County is poised to ask voters to raise the countywide sales tax.

Officials said the tax would pay for the operation of an emergency communications center, emergency medical services and the provision of behavioral health services, including alcohol and drug abuse treatment.

The tax would amount to one-fourth of 1 percent of the amount of purchases — or 25 cents for every $100. It is expected to raise $900,000 annually.

The tax would be assessed everywhere in the county, including inside Las Vegas city limits. Food and medical-related purchases would be exempted, as is the case with all sales taxes in New Mexico.

Last week, the County Commission voted unanimously to begin the process of putting the proposed tax on the ballot in the Nov. 2 general election.

If approved, the tax would take effect July 1, 2011.

County Manager Les Montoya said the county needs to offset the costs of ambulance services.

He also said a central dispatch agency would be beneficial, although he said the county hadn’t yet gained any partners for such a project. The combination of dispatch services among law enforcement agencies is seen as a cost savings for taxpayers.

“This funding source could be used for that purpose,” Montoya said.

The proposed tax increase is not the only local one. Recently, the Las Vegas City Council voted to begin the process of raising the sales tax by the same amount as the county’s proposal.

The city has been slowing reducing the amount of money funneled from its utilities to the general fund, which pays for everything from police to parks. The tax is expected to offset that loss to the general fund.

If both the city and county enact the proposed tax hikes, they would add 50 cents to the tax bill for every $100 in purchases.