- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Santa Fe county commissioners voted to increase the gross receipt tax by one-eighth of a cent, taking the tax rate in Santa Fe city limits to 8.4375 percent and the rate in unincorporated parts of the county to 7.125 percent next year, to fund essential services such as public safety and mental health.

The move is expected to generate an additional $4.6 million a year for the county. The tax increase will take effect Jan. 1.

County commissioners approved the increase Tuesday after hearing testimony from dozens of residents looking for funding for a behavioral health crisis center that would treat people with mental illness and drug or alcohol addictions. About $1.5 million of that new money will go toward building and operating a crisis center.

“I’ve been on a ride along with police officers majority of the calls were responding to overdoses, people who were passed out, people who are suffering from mental illness,” said District Attorney Marco Serna while he testified at the meeting.

Others who testified at the meeting spoke of personal experiences with family members suffering from mental illness and claimed that there was a lack of resources available for them. Speaker Riesha Fiorina told the commissioners that her own sister recently had an overdose while trying to self-medicate for her mental illness and a friend had committed suicide.

“They were both tired of going in and out of the emergency room and not having the resources that they needed,” she said.

The money will also pay for 30 new public positions in fire protection, jails, the sheriff’s office and the emergency dispatch center and give county employees a 1 percent pay increase for cost of living, the county said.

Only two speakers testified against the increase, including Yvonne Chicoine, chairwoman of the Santa Fe County Republican Party, who has spoken against other tax hikes in recent months.

Santa Fe county residents will be able to vote on an additional gross receipt tax increase in a special election in mid-September. If passed, the measure would increase the gross receipts tax rate in Santa Fe to 8.5 percent next year and 7.1875 percent in unincorporated areas.

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