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County treasurer candidates outline goals

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5-11-BarreraIn the decidedly least-heated of the series of three debates between candidates for Eddy County office, Frank Barrera of Artesia and Laurie Pruitt of Carlsbad explained their goals for the county treasurer’s department Tuesday at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center.

Barrera, who has worked for the treasurer’s office for approximately five years as a deputy treasurer, and Pruitt, who has spent three years as a deputy treasurer and accounting technician, were both in agreement that the next county treasurer should place greater focus on Artesia.

“We need to work together,” Barrera said, pointing out methods and approaches implemented in the Carlsbad office are often not passed along to Artesia. “We would like to do more in Artesia. I feel that we can establish ourselves and run, not so much better because I think that we really do have a good office already, but just unite the offices. Our treasurer is in Carlsbad and we very rarely see her, and we need that.”

“I want to be able to come to Artesia regularly,” said Pruitt. “I know that our current treasurer, she doesn’t really get down to Artesia much, but I feel like that’s really important. If I want to say, ‘This is how I want my office run,’ I need to be making sure that in Artesia, it’s being run the same way, and I want to be available to the people of Artesia if you have questions or you want to meet with me.”

5-11-PruittThe candidates agreed the biggest misconception many taxpayers have about the county treasurer is that the office controls the tax rates.

“People come up to us and say, ‘Well, you can lower our taxes,’ and we can’t,” said Barrera. “We’re not the ones that set that. We’re the tax collector – we get the bill, we collect, and we distribute. That money is designed to run your municipality, it’s divided into your schools, your hospitals.”

“We don’t have any control over what you pay in taxes,” said Pruitt. “A lot of times, people feel like we collect that tax money and all of that money stays with the county, and that is not true. We collect money for many entities. Just as an example, if you live in Artesia, approximately 7 percent of your tax dollars goes to the State of New Mexico, the county gets about 31 percent, the City of Artesia actually is collecting nothing right now because they have asked for nothing, the school district gets 38 percent, and the hospital about 22 percent.”

Asked what other changes they’d like to make within the treasurer’s office, Pruitt discussed safety and security, as well as public education, while Barrera expressed a desire to keep more of the revenue the office collects in the county’s communities.

“Coming from a bank environment, I understand the importance of the security that we have,” said Pruitt. “I understand how important it is to have a plan. I feel like it’s not so much about protecting the money, it’s about protecting our employees.

“(I’d also) try to educate the public about what you can do to lower your tax bill. There are certain bonds that have already passed, things that we have no control over, but there are some things that you can do to possibly lower what you have to pay, and I want to talk to people about that.”

“I’d like to see more money that we could keep here in Eddy County,” Barrera said. “I think the state takes away too much of our money, and if I could, I’d like to see more of the money that we collect stay in Artesia, in Carlsbad, in Loving, in Malaga, and to do more here in the county itself.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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