Voters in Doña Ana County and Sierra County will vote on a tax increase in November to enhance transit for both counties.
In April, The South Central Regional Transit District began a $400,000 demonstration project that connected transit routes from Las Cruces to Truth or Consequences and Alamogordo, along with Anthony, Sunland Park, and Chaparral.
Doña Ana County and Sierra County Commissioners have voted to place a Gross Receipts Tax on the ballot in November to make the current pilot program more permanent.
The measure calls for a Gross Receipts tax increase of ¼ of one percent, which will add 25 cents to purchases of $100 in both Dona Ana County and Sierra County.
Jack Valencia, Project Manager of The South Central Regional Transit District, says that if approved, the measure will bring more people in rural areas to Las Cruces for work, healthcare services, and shopping.
“Our initiative is more of a touch and feel, scratch and sniff. We want to get people in the rural areas to ride public transportation. We want to bring them into the Las Cruces area to catch Roadrunner transit in a seamless, efficient fashion,” says Valencia.
Valencia projects that if approved; the measure will generate $10 million per year for both counties to improve public transportation by expanding routes and extending hours.
The current pilot transit program is scheduled to end in December. Doña Ana County Commissioner Benjamin Rawson was the only vote against the measure on the Doña Ana County Commission.
Rawson, was is running for election this year to the District 3 seat he was appointed to last year by Governor Susanna Martinez, says there will not be enough information available until after the election regarding the pilot program. He says until then it is too early to know what types of transit needs are really required.
“We won’t have the results of the pilot program back until 2015. Yet, here in November of 2015 we are going to vote on a tax increase for something that we don’t have the study completed for yet,” says Rawson.
If the measure is approved for both counties, it will mean another Gross Receipts Tax increase next year for Las Cruces. In July, a GRT increase of nearly 38 cents took effect in the city.
According to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, the Gross Receipts Tax rate schedule for the City of Las Cruces is nearly 8 percent through December 2014.
Jack Valencia says that if the measure is approved in November, The City of Las Cruces will receive up to $3 million within the first couple of years for Roadrunner Transit.
“There’s going to be a significant amount of money going towards Roadrunner Transit enhancements that they’ve identified through their strategic plan for greater hours, greater frequency, and possible Sunday services. What it means for the rural communities is they will finally be connected to Las Cruces as the Southern New Mexico Regional Hub,” says Valencia.
According to Valencia, the Roadrunner Transit Service had a ridership last year of 800,000 for fixed routes, Paratransit, and Dial-a-ride.