Morning Briefing - February 07, 2019
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February 07, 2019

In Los Alamos County, Lab is Larger Employer of Shrinking Workforce

By ExchangeMonitor

A recent local government report shows that the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico accounted for a greater share of a shrinking Los Alamos County workforce over the last decade.

As of mid-2018, the Department of Energy facility employed more than 65 percent of the county’s total workforce of roughly 16,300. In 2009, the lab had a roughly 40-percent share of a county workforce of about 22,700, according the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report the Los Alamos County Council posted online after a late January meeting.

In raw numbers, the $2.5-billion-a-year nuclear-security lab added more than 1,500 jobs as the county overall shed almost 6,500 positions, according to the report compiled from data collected by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. The lab had about 11,000 employees in the county for the fiscal year ended June 30, according to the report.

In a financial sense, the venerable nuclear weapons lab practically is Los Alamos County. The site accounted for 90 percent to 95 percent of the county’s economy in fiscal 2018, the report says. In revenue terms, it represented between 70 percent and 80 percent of the $30 million in gross receipts taxes the county collected in that budger year. Gross receipts taxes, essentially a tax on revenue, provided roughly 20 percent of the county’s overall 2018 tax take of $145 million or so. That was down from about $155 million in 2017.

Los Alamos County’s net position was $420 million or so for the 2018 fiscal year, down roughly 14 percent, or about $68 million, from fiscal 2017. Changes to the way the county accounts for certain retirement benefits generated most of the drop, according to the report.

Net position represents the value of the county’s assets, less the cost of its liabilities for rendering public services such as utilities, emergency response, and municipal courts. The county employed the equivalent of about 675 full-time personnel in 2018, the latest financial report says.

Meanwhile, Los Alamos National Laboratory prime contractor Triad National Security, which came on the job Nov. 1, is still paying the county and state gross receipts tax. However, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which owns the lab, has said Triad might have to apply for federal tax-exempt status.

If Triad got a tax-exempt designation, it would cost Los Alamos County $10 million to $20 million a year, according to the latest financial report.

Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess said he met with NNSA officials this week, but that agency was still “reviewing their options” regarding Triad’s tax-exempt status. The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment,