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Death, Taxes and Monsoons

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Three things are inevitable: death, taxes and monsoons. Or at least they used to be. Now I’m not so sure about the second two.

On the death front, I’ve known for a while that I could die at any moment. This first came home to me when our family got stuck in Hurricane Hilda while visiting my grandparents near Hammond, Louisiana. I was 11 years old. I imagined large objects impaling me through the windows. The actual hurricane turned away, but death got my attention.

It’s easier to forget when you’re young. But no one gets through life without reminders of death. We lose friends and family. Now the process is speeding up.

People my age or younger are dropping off. I never used to look at the obituary page because it was unlikely anyone I knew would be on it. Now I keep close tabs. And I wonder what they’ll say about me.

Local people I knew and famous people whose work influenced me are dying off. Recently some younger people were deeply touched by the death of Sinead O’Connor. I had to listen on YouTube to understand what I missed when I wasn’t listening in the 80s. But when David Crosby passed, I remembered the effect his song “Almost Cut My Hair” had on me in 1970. Locally, several favorite musicians have passed, including Greg Renfro and Paul DeMarco.

So today when I think I could die at any minute I believe it. And I try to live like it.

On the tax front, I was surprised to get a ballot on the Local Option Gross Receipts Tax: “Shall Section 6 of Ordinance No. 12-03 be amended to remove Section 6 in order to prevent its repeal on December 31, 2023 and allow for the continued collection of the gross receipts tax for countywide emergency communications and emergency medical and behavioral health services?”

What! Who wrote that ballot question? Various newspaper articles have tried to make sense of this election, but not everyone will hear or read those explanations, some of which are not much more clear than the question itself.

What exactly is Ordinance 12-03? It’s not so easy to find out. The ordinance passed in 2012, but the list of ordinances on the county web site only goes from 2017 to 2021. I couldn’t find it in the ordinary way, but the county web site has a new special section entitled: “Grant County 911 Voter Information”. I urge you to read it at grantcounty911.com.

It includes the mysterious Ordinance 12-03, which sets the county gross receipts tax to .125 percent (one eighth percent) and assigns the money to emergency communications, emergency services and behavioral health. Section 6 says: “Ordinance No. 0-12-03 (if it becomes law) is repealed effective December 31, 2023.”

The county commissioners could have passed a new ordinance reimposing the tax, but in a meeting on May 11 the commissioners decided to ask the people to repeal the repeal.

We’ll see if that was a good strategy. I fear that many confused voters will shake their heads and throw this ballot in the trash. As a person who has taken two involuntary ambulance rides in the last year, I’m a fan of emergency services. I wish the ballot had been worded better.

As most people know, we pay gross receipts tax indirectly. Businesses add the gross receipts tax to the cost of goods and services. The rate depends on whether we buy in town, in the county or elsewhere. We also get money from visitors who buy here. Silver City depends on gross receipts, but the county gets more money from property taxes.

The bottom lines: If most of us vote yes, emergency services will continue at the same rate—no tax increase. If most of us vote no…well, we’ll get a tiny tax cut, but who know where emergency services funding will come from and how different municipalities will handle it. I’m voting yes.

Moving on to monsoons, when I moved here in 1999, my memory (possibly flawed) is that monsoons were regular. The sky fell at 3 pm (plus or minus 15) and turned bright blue at 3:45. For a person used to Seattle drizzle, water falling in sheets was a thrill. This must be the only town where they shut down the main street (Bullard) to let a river (Yankee) run across it.

Now that’s all over. Every day the clouds boil up. Thunder rumbles. Sometimes light flashes. But no rain. We will never see monsoons again.
I’m defying fate as a donation to the community. I’m writing this column on Monday. I’ll be humiliated if it becomes irrelevant because of monsoons before publication on Wednesday. I hope I’m all wet.

Disclaimer:
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to bruce@greensilverlinings.com.
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