Route 66 News

Santa Rosa fiscal crisis likely will impact its bid for museum

The City of Santa Rosa, N.M., faces a financial “catastrophe” after the state suddenly withheld $160,000 in gross receipts taxes in June, with an extra $240,000 reportedly withheld in the coming weeks, reported the  current print edition of the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa.

The state abruptly withheld the money after an undisclosed business appealed the amount of taxes it paid over the years. Because of the sudden shutoff of funds, the city faces deep service cuts, a shutdown, or even bankruptcy.

The sudden fiscal crisis will hurt Santa Rosa’s chances in establishing a Route 66 museum in the historic Ilfeld Warehouse near downtown. Sixty miles east, Tucumcari also seeks to land a Route 66 museum. Santa Rosa’s plight — along with positive developments involving Tucumcari’s bid — almost certainly has placed Tucumcari in the lead for a Mother Road museum in New Mexico.

The Communicator described how quickly the crisis developed:

Like many municipalities, Santa Rosa counts on monthly gross receipts tax revenues to fund its day-to-day operations. In June, the city was expecting a monthly distribution of about $160,000. But when the city checked its bank account, the automatic deposit had not arrived.

Instead, the city was informed it had a “negative distribution” that wiped out that entire monthly amount, with the Taxation and Revenue Department saying that another $243,334.39 would have to be repaid either in full, or in six monthly payments of $40,555.73.

Either option was considered cataclysmic. As of this week, the city had around $200,000 total in its bank accounts, a payroll of $71,000 to meet by the end of this week, and other bills due totaling $45,000.

The city council voted 3-2 to seek an emergency loan from the state on Thursday to make up for the lost June money. Even with a loan, Santa Rosa still has to find about $200,000 a year in spending cuts. Whether the state approved the emergency loan was not known during the publication of this story.

If Santa Rosa declared bankruptcy, The Communicator reported that would mean a takeover of the municipal government by the state, with “bare-bones services at best.”

In an opinion piece, M.E. Sprengelmeyer, publisher and editor of The Communicator, took the state to task for not informing Santa Rosa in advance about the tax appeal and the possible future problems with it:

The city faces all sorts of financial or accounting issues, past or present, that certainly are worthy of debate. But this appears to be an entirely new crisis, separate and distinct.

The current crisis is about New Mexico law and policies that somehow allowed a big-money appeal to go forward without an advance heads-up to the cash-strapped local and county governments that might conceivably be forced to pay back some of the money they thought they were entitled to spend.

That ain’t right.

Just a few months ago, the state awarded a $325,000 grant to plan and rehabilitate the Ilfeld Warehouse so it can become a Route 66 museum. However, with the city suddenly becoming more cash-strapped, it’s doubtful it can pay for basic museum services, much less renovations.

Coincidentally, about the same time news of Santa Rosa’s crisis broke, a group in Tucumcari announced in an email that the New Mexico Route 66 Museum had been officially incorporated and its nonprofit status approved by the state. The group also announced:

A new Museum Board has been formed, and a Museum Operating Committee is in the works, with more announcements to come soon. The New Mexico Route 66 Museum is now accepting financial donations and interests in sponsorship, more information on exhibit donations will also be released soon. A primary site for the museum has been selected for approval, and that decision should be concluded within the next couple of months. Once that decision has concluded, work or the move in process will begin almost immediately.

As recently as a week ago, Santa Rosa was considered the front-runner for the first Route 66 museum in New Mexico. How quickly things can change.

UPDATE 7/3/2012: KRQE-TV in Albuquerque filed this follow-up story:

Serrano says the total the city owes reflects about a quarter of its annual revenue stream and Santa Rosa is asking for two years to pay the money back.

The city also needs a loan of the money the state’s already taken to cover its bills in the short term. It’s working with TRD to come to an acceptable arrangement.

“We’re going to be forced to look at steep cuts in our finances in order to make that payment,” Serrano said.

Layoffs, furloughs and reduced hours at city buildings are possibilities, but Serrano says one area is off the table.

“As far as law enforcement, fire, ambulance… we don’t want to touch that at this point,” Serrano said.

Serrano also said bankruptcy was not being considered.

11 thoughts on “Santa Rosa fiscal crisis likely will impact its bid for museum

  1. Randy Peterson

    I think Santa Rosa would be the best place to have the museum. Tucumcarri just does not have what it would take for a museum to survive. I drive through both towns at least 4-5 times a month for work and usually sleep in Santa Rosa for the night on the way back home. Santa Rosa is alive and well, while Tucumcarri is sort of “dead”. The events Santa Rosa has (especially during the summer) attract many people and I think they would visit the museum. I like going to the softball games if I stay on the nights they have them. If it goes to Tucumcarri, it has a great chance of closing down. Plus, the folks in Santa Rosa are really friendly! So in my opinion, I say go with the logical choice and put the museum in Santa Rosa.

    1. RT

      Everyone has an opinion Randy – and I can find just as many for Tucumcari!

      “does not have what it would take for a museum to survive” – you’re right, they THRIVE! Dinosaur Museum, Historical Museum, soon to open Railroad Museum, and now a Route 66 Museum.

      “events” you say – Tucumcari has softball and all that too, and Santa Rosa has lost its share of major events more recently, not that that’s entirely their fault.

      None of that is to say Santa Rosa’s not a nice place either, they simply don’t have the population to support the same services you don’t seem to appreciate. Looks can be deceiving, but Tucumcari has ALWAYS been the larger town of the two, and likely always will be. There’s no reason why one can’t compliment the other, offering completely different opportunities…

      I have an idea of what the Ilfeld Wharehouse building will turn out to be, and knowing that, I’m quite confident Tucumcari’s museum will be totally different. The only thing better than one new museum, is two new museums, so why not?

  2. Ron Warnick Post author

    I think “alive” is relative, Randy. In the past year, Santa Rosa has lost its theater, a huge variety store, a video store, and the prominent Lake City Diner.

    And, again, where would the City of Santa Rosa get the money to operate the museum?

  3. Richard R Delgado

    Ron your bias and unprofessional “journalism” is evident in your response. The City financial crisis has nothing to do with the development of the warehouse and the sooner than you think opening of the “yet to be named Route 66 Museum because somebody from Tucumcari stole the name. The last time you posted about the Santa Rosa – Tucumcari “competition” for the New Mexico Route 66 Museum in your normal biased fashion, you were wrong then and you will be wrong again now, and on the wrong side to boot. There is no honor among thieves, don’t you know?

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      Richard, I care not whether Santa Rosa or Tucumcari gets the museum. So your accusation of bias is unfounded and untrue.

      Anyone with an ounce of common sense would take note that the deep budget cuts required by the City of Santa Rosa probably would constrain its ability to operate a museum for at least two years.

      If you have evidence to the contrary, please present it.

  4. RT

    OMG stop with all the sour grapes already Richard – there’s room enough for both museums, and I’m sure each will be different in their own way. Clinton has a museum, and then Elk City just down the road has one too, and both seem to be doing just fine – is it all about starting a Route 66 Museum in New Mexico, or is it just all about you?

    And nobody stole anything, so I’d mind your accusations! You’ve been toying around with a building and Johnnie, and the other simply moved ahead as planned…

    I see just as much biased obviously posted here for Santa Rosa and favorable mention, when Tucumcari has actually slowly been growing over the last 5 years. This doesn’t need to be a bitter competition, why not rather 2 new Route 66 Museums in New Mexico, both great new additions for everyone to get to enjoy, I’m sure Tucumcari’s will favorably promote Santa Rosa, the Blue Hole, the Route 66 Auto Museum and more, as well as the rest of the state and Route 66??? There’s will not be about Tucumcari, but rather all of Route 66 in New Mexico…

  5. RT

    Santa Rosa approx. pop. 2,800 – Tucumcari approx. pop. 5,300! Tucumcari – over 20 new businesses in the last few years, Santa Rosa – how many? Tucumcari – I-40, US 54, NM 104 & 209. Tucumcari is the 1st town large enough to support such an endeavor, when traveling East to West, and can promote everyone down the line – how does Santa Rosa get anyone to turn around and go backwards? Maybe both Tucumcari and Gallup should have a Route 66 Museum, and promote everyone coming from each direction?

    You can arguably be defensive about the financial situation, as most small towns out there are financially challenged right now and you can obviously be biased towards your community’s efforts at large, but it doesn’t make you one bit the better choice than Tucumcari, for the obvious and factual numbers stated above.

    Why not take the high road, and figure out a way to cooperate between each other, instead of so-called trying to steal from each other? There’s enough room for both, and both could very well help each other in the end. I happen to know plenty of businesses and people in Tucumcari that send tourists to the Route 66 Auto Museum on a daily basis, or the Blue Hole for a visit, should they stop helping now???

    Don’t be bitter, just try to figure out a way to work together instead…

  6. Richard R Delgado

    Ron. Here is a paragraph from your article:

    The sudden fiscal crisis will hurt Santa Rosa’s chances in establishing a Route 66 museum in the historic Ilfeld Warehouse near downtown. Sixty miles east, Tucumcari also seeks to land a Route 66 museum. Santa Rosa’s plight — along with positive developments involving Tucumcari’s bid — almost certainly has placed Tucumcari in the lead for a Mother Road museum in New Mexico.

    That is your opinion. It is your blog so you can blog what you want, but this is not a factual statement. Sorry.

    Here is your other misguided statement in the blog:
    Coincidentally, about the same time news of Santa Rosa’s crisis broke, a group in Tucumcari announced in an email that the New Mexico Route 66 Museum had been officially incorporated and its nonprofit status approved by the state

    The person or persons responsible must be really proud of themselves for allowing presentations to establish a New Mexico Route 66 Museum in front of their group and then stealing the idea and name. Get your facts straight. That we will have to find another suitable name is not an obstacle.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      Again, Richard, please explain how deep budget cuts in the City of Santa Rosa would not impact the renovations and basic operations of a museum. The fact the city will be cash-strapped for at least the next two years is irrefutable, per your town’s own newspaper.

      And “stealing” the museum name is hyperbole. The name was available, and Tucumcari took it. No stealing was involved. Sounds to me like they took advantage of the “snooze, you lose” approach.

  7. RT

    Seriously Richard, you need to take a deep breath and a chill pill! The “IDEA” has been around and discussed for years, in many states and towns long before Santa Rosa, it isn’t new at all, otherwise New Mexico wouldn’t have been one of the last to do so. So obviously no one stole the idea, Tucumcari’s is very different anyway, and has also been in the works for years.

    The name, well if you didn’t already have it, then no one could have stolen it? You’re neither the only ones with a vision, nor the first. Certainly you don’t think no one ever thought of using that name before you?

    I would hope you’re willing at some point, to assist Tucumcari with representing Santa Rosa in their museum as well, which would only be to your benefit. An open opportunity to work together down the road, and help each other…

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