We all understand the concept of tax. We all feel the bite from the GRT; although necessary, it is no less impacting on our families. It is used to run the necessary cost of County Government. We understand this and buy local wanting our tax dollars to be used to our benefit. One such benefit, if not a necessity, is Public Safety via the Sheriff’s Department. Our budget is composed of your hard earned tax dollars. This is not new as all across the United States law enforcement budgets are supported by tax dollars.
On March 24th, 2015 at the Dona Ana County Commission Chambers your Commissioners gathered together and implemented an increased 3/8th GRT. During this event we, the public, were told this was to assist with Public Safety and obtaining the much needed and failing items within the Sheriff’s Department.
The public response was overwhelming, unhappy about the increase but almost every single person who stood and addressed the issue said the same thing. They were not happy about the increase but if it is going to go to increasing public safety then it would be tolerable. What person wants more taxes? The only thing we can ask is that it is spent so as to benefit the communities it is said to be used for.
HERE is the issue and focus of this page.
We the citizens were told one thing, but the reality is your GRT, estimated at over 12 million dollars for the 3/8th of a penny, did not go where you thought it would. To better understand this issue let’s first look at some terms:
The concept of the public trust relates back to the origins of democratic government and its seminal idea that within the public lays the true power and future of a society; therefore, whatever trust the public places in its officials must be respected.
(What does this mean to us and the GRT? Well simply put, we place trust in our Commissioners to represent our public interests and place that over all else including their own political goals.)
To take the place of (another), as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like or to replace (one thing) by something else.
(What does this mean to us and the GRT? Let’s assume that you already have two five dollar bills. The County Government tells you that they are going to give you a five dollar bill. They do indeed give you a five dollar bill while at the same time they take one of your existing five dollar bills. Pretty neat right? They gave you one, but took another from you.)
HOW DOES THE ABOVE APPLY?
On the March date, the Commission voted to increase GRT by a 3/8th of a penny. The estimated value of this was over 12 million a year in additional taxes collected. They told you it would go to help bolster public safety along with some other areas. Keep a close eye on the other areas we will discuss this as well.
Our faith and trust was renewed when a brave Commissioner, that being Commissioner Benavidez, put forth language earmarking a portion specifically 1/8th to increase the public safety budget of the Sheriff’s department. We say brave as in doing so, she put herself in the path of a couple of commissioners who would appear to have other plans for your tax dollars. This was evident by their response which can be found on video for the day Commissioner Benavidez made her resolution.
Why would one be so angry at earmarking tax dollars when they told the public that was their plan for the increase? What was the outcome of this earmarking?
One would think it simple; take the budget, add the additional GRT and there you have simple math. However, that was not the response. Instead it was said that the resolution was not clear thus we see how the word Supplant comes to be on this page.
The Sheriff’s Department budget received the 1/8th GRT much needed funding placed on top only to have the same amount taken out of the bottom. Remember the five dollar bill trick. So where does that leave us? With a Budget that has not changed for public safety while the added 4 plus million to be used elsewhere.
Our hats go off to another brave Commissioner, this time Commissioner Rawson. His efforts to get to the bottom of this shell game were evident when he questioned the Finance Director in open Commission meeting. The brave Commissioner asked where the GRT 1/8th earmarked for public safety went to and was told that it went into the Sheriff’s Department’s budget. However after further questioning it was learned that the GRT was placed in the budget only to have the budget reduced by the same amount. This left the budget as if it had never been touched. Pretty sneaky right? And when asked if this money had been supplanted the response was YES.
Commissioner Benavidez knew full well what her and the public’s intent was to do with the added 1/8th GRT and attempted clarifying the language to be presented. However those who had been so upset with the earmarking could not allow such language to be put forward and undo the shell game of where is your GRT and thus tabled her language indefinitely. Again our hats go off to those who attempted to follow the direction the public was told the GRT was to be used for.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
Well we ask that you contact your respective commissioners and tell them you want the clarifying language to go in place without further delay. If they are not willing to use the GRT as they told the public they would, then tell them to give it back and language will be drafted up for the specific earmarking of the 3/8th penny for public safety and it will be voted on by the public.
Remember we said to keep an eye out for other issues well we are at that point now. In November 2014 the public voted down the proposed funding of the Dona Ana County Public Transit system much to the dismay of a couple interested Commissioners. The response, use part of the non-public voted GRT to fund over $750,000. Yup public says no not what we want and specific commissioners using public safety as the reason designate a portion of your tax dollars to fund it anyway. Here we see no supplanting, just in your face citizens and tax payers we are going to do it anyway. We ask you how was the public trust respected with regards to this GRT. We ask you contact your commissioner and tell them use it as you said you would or give it back and a public vote and ordnance will protect the GRT from being unclear as to its use and intent.