By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Another cut in state funding has officials concerned about the future of the Quay County DWI Compliance program.
“We didn’t know the cut was going to be this bad,” said Richard Primrose, Quay County manager.
Primrose said the county received its first quarter distribution for the DWI program on Sept. 12 in the amount of $9,000. He had anticipated it would be $23,000.
Primrose said he will contact state officials to determine why the distribution was cut. He said it is important to the program’s future to determine if other distributions will be cut.
Primrose said the county pays for the program out of the general funds. He said the county is reimbursed by the distributions. These latest cuts puts the county out $14,000, Primrose said.
Primrose said there is a possibility the shorted funds will be added to the next distribution.
Primrose said during the 30-day legislative session the state did a sweep of all of the funds to try to make up for a projected $150 million shortfall in the 2016 budget.
A sweep takes money from other funds and transfers them to the state’s general fund to shore up a deficit.
To make matters worse, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee projected a $458 million shortfall for the 2017 budget.
The causes of the shortfall include; a struggling state economy and low oil and natural gas prices that triggered a crash in state’s oil and gas sector, said Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, LFC chairman.
Primrose said as the state works to balance the budget it is possible to see additional reductions in funding to programs and capital outlay. He said in May the county budgeted a projected 22 percent cut to the DWI funding for the 2017 fiscal year. Program Coordinator Bryan Rinestine volunteered to reduce his hours to offset the reduced funding, Primrose said.
Primrose said the budget reduction raised concerns for a program that was already struggling to offer compliance services. He said without the compliance program (DWI probation), a judge is left with two choices for an offender: jail or set them free.
Primrose said the lack of a DWI program would also cost the county additional money in the housing of DWI offenders at the Quay County Detention Center. He said the county would absorb the cost of housing inmates as opposed to them being placed on probation.