Taos Town Manager Oscar Rodríguez said the town’s effort to annex the regional airport could be completed as early as March, and the annexation is necessary for a major expansion at the airport to move forward.

The airport expansion, including a new crosswind runway, is expected to cost about $24 million. Most of the project would be federally funded, but the town must come up with a $1.2 million match.

Rodríguez said it would be “bad financial planning” to go into debt to complete the expansion without having a solid plan to recover revenues from it. “It would not be a responsible recommendation,” he said. “We need cash.”

As such, the town is eager to bring in the gross-receipts tax revenues that would be created by construction at the airport. Because the airport is now outside town limits, the town would see no revenue from the project unless the facility were annexed.

The proposed annexation would enlarge the town boundaries to include about six miles of highway right-of-way on US 64, extending from the existing northern town boundary to the Old Blinking Light intersection, then west to the airport. The result would be a narrow, dogleg town border running through El Prado and on to the mesa, connecting the airport as a distant appendage.

Rodríguez said the town stands to gain more tax revenue from the airport expansion than the county stands to lose.

Earlier this month, Rodríguez sent an email to Taos County Commission Chairman Dan Barrone explaining the fiscal impacts of the proposed annexation. Rodríguez wrote that the potential one-time loss to the county would be $225,000, while the town stands to gain $669,000.

“Why would we not want to do that on our own project?” Rodríguez said in an interview with The Taos News. “Right now, we’re getting nothing.”

The email also pointed out that the county’s current tax revenue from the area is minimal. “Generously assuming economic activity at the airport is as high as $500,000 among the seven businesses operating there today, annexation by the town will cost the county at very most $4,700 in gross receipts tax revenue,” Rodríguez wrote. “The loss the town sees every year the airport stays outside the town limits is $14,000.”

Barrone told The Taos News that, as an alternative to annexation, the county has proposed passing off the tax revenue generated by the airport expansion directly to the town. Barrone said such an offer is only part of ongoing negotiations and no final agreements have been made.

Deputy Taos County Manager Rick Bellis said the county is willing to collaborate with the town to find a solution that is in the best interest of the community as a whole. “I think we all realize that, with limited resources, we need to work together.”

Bellis said the county is waiting to see detailed financial projections analyzing the long-term benefits that the airport expansion is expected to have on the region. He also said the county would want to ensure services to residents and businesses in the area would not be adversely affected if the airport and highway right-of-way were annexed.

A report prepared by former town planning director William Morris found the only increased cost to the town would be $3,000 a year to pay for electricity to two traffic lights in the annexed zone. The report also said an additional town police presence along the annexed corridor may be needed as well.

Rodríguez said the town is still waiting for something in writing from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) regarding the annexation. Email exchanges obtained through a public records request show town attorney Brian James has been asking NMDOT representatives to formalize an agreement under which the town would annex the right-of-way along Highway 64.

“I think it is fair to say that the town has no higher priority right now than to complete the steps toward annexation and getting the upgrades to the regional airport,” James wrote, later adding, “The town understands that there are likely to be expectations that the town would maintain the annexed (right of way) to NMDOT standards and is prepared to agree to such reasonable requirements as NMDOT may want to impose in that regard.”

In one email, James said an agreement with NMDOT would give the town leverage if the county were to oppose the annexation.

Email responses from a DOT employee suggest that the agency does not need to give any approval before the town moves to annex.

Talks between the town and the county are planned for the coming weeks, and discussions could touch on other issues, including how the airport and other facilities are managed.

Rodríguez said he would like to see the airport move toward more regional management, offering the regional landfill as an example. He said more cost- and risk-sharing among entities that benefit from the airport would make sense from the town’s perspective. The town currently operates the airport, including two employees, at an annual cost of about $142,000.

Rodríguez pointed to services the town provides to the wider community, including emergency dispatch, the recycling center, the library, fire protection and the Taos Youth and Family Center. He said a situation in which a town of 6,000 provides services to a population of 30,000 is “unsustainable.”

“The geometry is pretty upside-down here,” he said.

Rodríguez said the airport annexation may act as a “bellwether” for how the town and county can collaborate to address other issues.

In his Jan. 24 State of the Town address, Mayor Darren Córdova also spoke to the importance of regional collaboration. He said he hopes this year to bridge the gap between the town and county.

“It is long overdue,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to make it happen.”

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Linda Bence
Linda Bence

Hands Off, Town of Taos, that tax revenue should go to the county where it is needed for infrastructure, roads and safety. If the town wants to collect money for this project, let them stop funding the mayor's party on Mother's Day and other such frivoulous projects.

We have limited safety in the county due to its size. It isn't possible to get a sheriff to one's home in a timely manner nor is it possible for an ambulance or fire truck to reach many homes in a reasonable time limit. The residents of the town all have better safety than the county.

Expanding the airport will have an adverse affect on those of us who live in the county. We are the ones who will be affected by the road traffic, noise and lighting issues. Many of us who live in the county aren't sure whether this is a service that will be used or needed. More study needs to be undertaken before we build a facility that won't be used.

PB
PB

How about some "cash" for the falling apart roads?

PB

Part Timer
Part Timer

Typical Government - tax/spend tax/spend tax/spend. I've yet to hear a valid reason for the airport expansion. I have a novel suggestion - tell the Fed Gov to keep the $24M instead of going even further in debt.

Krumholtz
Krumholtz

Are there purported beneficiaries of a $24 million publicly funded airport expansion other than wealthy owners and operators of private aircraft? And if governmental and medical users are the answer, can we include the comparative percentages each category represents?

Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson

An extraordinary sum of money for an airport with only about 40 aircraft and no aviation based business. With only a little under 6000' of runway, the jet aircraft to be serviced here for business or pleasure is limited. The Airport Authority should be looking towards private investors instead of only public money for something that will not bring revenue to the county. Should a concrete charter operation want to locate at the airport then it would be a different story as it would generate revenues to repay the investment.

josetaos
josetaos

The town collected tax from the county when the new complex was built. It's only fair the money goes the other way, too.

Stakeholder101
Stakeholder101

I was recently working in the Angel Fire area and the discussion going on with some of the Angel Fire residents was around annexing the Angel Fire/Eagle Nest (Moreno Valley) to Taos county. The conversation was that they use the Taos facilities, hospital, shopping, etc far greater than going to Raton or Las Vegas so it made sense to be part of Taos County instead of Colfax county. It would be more convenient for them to come to Taos for their county legal issues than driving two hours to the Colfax county seat in Raton. I believe if this annexation could happen it certainly would be a big boon for Taos County. It would certainly increase the Taos County tax base!!!

linkdrecovery
linkdrecovery

Typical Taos logic is to spend a fortune on new Government buildings and refuse to invest in any ideas to increase any tax revenue to pay for it. Taos needs to expand the context of what is possible here as far as tourism dollars are concerned. For those who want to keep Taos special and small and unaffected by the outside, you are dellusional. Turn off the internet, do not ever read this type of electronic information, its is not pure, it is brought to you by the very largest of outside corporations you so think you do not want here, stop buying your gas from multinational petrol companies, never go into a grocery store again, all of it comes from multinational agro villains. Stop usings cell phones with multinational providers who are taking all of your cash. If you look more closely at your idea of freedom, you might become a bit aware of the hypocrisy of the ambition to keep Taos small. Whether we like it or not, the world is connected and Taos is in it. So, why not embrace the ideas of progress and let Regional jet service into Taos? Beautiful towns like Aspen and Jackson have non stop regional jet service from cities accross the country. Those towns are thriving with tax revenues and successful local businesses serving tourists and locals alike. What are we so afraid of here..... success?

Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson

"So, why not embrace the ideas of progress and let Regional jet service into Taos?" a not so novel idea my friend. In order to do that the runway would need to be lengthened to 10k feet and widened to 150'. That would cost about $130 million and would necessitate an instrument approach costing about $250k. This would all be money well spent if the business base were there but I really think we would be challenged to find such commitment. I'm not criticizing your idea merely pointing out the chance for success.

ianettajj
ianettajj

Finally progress! Maybe we can fianlly get regional jet service here, and make travel destinations more accessible, even if it's local families wanting to see the caverns in Carlsbad w/o spending 10 hours on the road and $400 in fuel. The greatest testimony to this whole airport expansion is that the keepers of this sacred land which is the people of Taos Pueblo have embraced the possibilities, and benefits too. Lindabence wants to complain about county services? and poke the Town in the eyes for trying to bring a more stable economy to Taos? Linda spread the wealth your sitting on, because maybe you can afford to be the last one in the door to Taos, but locals and retailers that rely on Tourism dollars will sure be greatful for any upbeat in tourism in Taos. Many residents in the county I for one being from El Prado look forward to the possibility of annexation into the town. I've seen more progress and progressive thinking in the town in the past couple of years than I have seen at the county in a very long time. The county continues to raise property taxes, the acessor is handing out business personal property tax evaluation forms to offset their in-ability to manage ANY funds and increase revenues by finding any means of taxing the very businesses that have helped keep this community affloat during these hard economic times, ask the business community if they have ever been taxed by the county for itmes they paid tax on when they were originally purchased. Everyday items such as chairs,computers, pens, tools, fax machines, telephones or anything that is required to operate their businesses, they will tell you NO aside from this year, imposed taxes before even the slightest mention of lost revs to annexation. The commisioners, are scared because there are new electors willing to provide for the people and wasting no time in telling them to get on board or get out of the way. While I too hope the two bodies can work together, I feel it is selfish and irrational for the county to try and stop the entity that provides the citizens with the majority of the infrastructure from expanding to provide more possibilities to the citizens of Taos. As if the town were being repromanded for being responsible. I thought betterment was about ALL OF TAOS NOT just the county of Taos. If the county leaders don't wake up the just may find more county property being proposed to annexation and not by the will of the town but by the will of the people, ask how many individuals are happy with their property taxes and police protection, btw has anybody seen a sherrifs officer let alone the sherrif himself? Spend one hour in the new judicial complex and you will easily be re-assured that even though there was an election the machine is still running business as usual. Overpaid and underworked staff, that treat the general public as if they should be entitled to be in the their presence.