LOCAL NEWS

Point/Counterpoint

POINT

SVH Money Reauthorized Due to Inaction at Hospital

By Thomas E. Clifford, Phd

Cabinet Secretary

Dept. of Finance & Administration

Please allow me to correct the erroneous impression created by your article published April 4, 2012, under the headline, “Gov. Martinez Takes $198,000 Back From Hospital Capital Outlay.”

Last month, Gov. Susana Martinez signed House Bill 190, which reauthorized funds from unspent 2008 legislative appropriations for several new capital outlay projects.

Reauthorization is a process employed by the Legislature and Executive to make more effective use of capital outlay funds by canceling their expenditure on projects that are not proceeding, and re-appropriating the funds to new projects. This process has been employed frequently in the years after 2008 because the State went from having a surplus of capital outlay funds to a shortage of funds of all kinds.

In developing House Bill 190, our staff began by identifying projects where there had been little or no activity for a prolonged period. In all of the local government projects, reauthorized in the bill, including the Sierra Vista Hospital, local entities responsible for overseeing expenditures did not provide required monthly updates to the Department of Finance & Administration, disclosing how they planned to spend remaining project funds. These reports are essential because they provide the State with information needed to appropriately manage taxpayer funds.

Regarding the Sierra Vista Hospital project, DFA’s Capital Outlay Bureau contacted Sierra County administrators and Sen. John Arthur Smith in January to ask if the project would go forward. The county did not respond. The answer from Senator Smith’s office was no.

Sierra County had four years to utilize the funds, but took no action and did not file regular planning updates. County administrators knew the funds would expire in June 2012 and, despite our agency’s outreach efforts, never proposed an extension to allow additional time to use the funds.

Considering these facts, it was inaccurate and unfair for the article to characterize the reauthorization as a “search for money” by Gov. Martinez.

Using all of the information available to the State, the Sierra Vista Hospital project was identified as one that would not move forward. This is the reason it was identified for reauthorization by the Governor, the same process that is applied to all other projects around New Mexico. This is an authority afforded to the State’s chief executive in order to prudently manage tax revenues, not a hunt for coins under a sofa cushion.

It’s important for your readers to understand the reauthorized funds will go toward an important public project, a Rio Rancho regional park that will benefit mentally and physically disabled children. This park will be one of only a handful of similar facilities nationwide, serving special-needs children who can play on custom equipment. It will be a tremendous asset, not only for Rio Rancho, but for New Mexico as a whole.

The Department of Finance & Administration stands ready to help your newspaper accurately inform your readers. Please encourage the reporter who wrote the article, Kathleen Sloan, to contact to our Public Information Officer, Tim Korte, with any questions involving state government financing.

***

COUNTERPOINT

Local Officials, Senator Dispute Claims Made by State Officials

By Kathleen Sloan

HERALD Reporter

Sierra County Manager Janet Porter Carrejo on Monday, April 16, told The Herald that the county has turned in all monthly updates to the New Mexico Department of Finance & Administration, disclosing how the capital outlay funds given to the hospital have been spent and what they plan to do with the remainder.

Her administrative assistant, Kristin Armijo, confirmed this by sending the monthly updates to The Herald on Monday.

Carrejo and Armijo say the Capital Outlay Bureau did not contact the county in January.

In a phone conversation on Monday, April 16, Sen. John Arthur Smith said, “I was not contacted. And if I were, I would not have stated the hospital project is not going forward.”

Smith was unaware the capital outlay funds were being reauthorized at the time.

Department of Finance & Administration Cabinet Secretary Thomas Clifford’s letter states, “Sierra County had four years to utilize the funds, but took no action…” This too, is inaccurate. In those four years, the hospital has purchased land at Smith Street, done a traffic study, hired a master planner and an emergency room architect, among other work/fund expenditures.

Carrejo said the $198,000 that was reauthorized was earmarked for expenditure before June 2012, which was the deadline for spending before it was taken back.

The Herald contacted Public Information Officer Tim Korte, as Clifford suggested. Monday, April 16, in a phone call, Korte says he was told a Janet Peacock “from Sen. Smith’s office,” and County Manager Carrejo attended a meeting during the legislative session at which they informed the Director of Capital Outlay Bureau Renee Borrego that the hospital project was not going forward.

Korte also says Borrego claims she had no monthly updates on capital outlay projects—“she had nothing,” said Korte.

Carrejo’s reaction: “Wow. I absolutely was not at that meeting.”

Sen. Smith’s reaction: “Janet Peacock is a tax expert, a retired state employee brought in only during legislative session. She would have nothing to do with capital outlay. She is very circumspect and takes a very egalitarian view. I don’t think she would ever say such a thing and she wouldn’t have the authority to make that statement.”

Carrejo’s Administrative Assistant Kristin Armijo said earlier on Monday that the county’s contact at DFA on capital outlay projects has recently changed, but she has been sending monthly reports to Simon Saiz.

The Herald asked Korte who would be responsible for getting Director of Capital Outlay Bureau Renee Borrego those monthly reports and he could not say, but will get back to us on that.

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