New Mexicans on Tuesday approved the $119.4 million universities and colleges say they so desperately need to renovate their buildings, according to county data.
State Bond C, which allocates the money to higher education institutions in 21 counties around the state, appears to have passed, with 63 percent of voters approving it. Voters also gave the nod to the two other state bonds questions. Bond A, which will benefit senior citizen centers to the tune of $10.3 million, passed with about 66 percent of the vote. Bond B, which raises $9.8 million for libraries, also passed by 66 percent, Bernalillo County data shows. The numbers represent more than 60 percent of precincts, according to the Associated Press.
Of the more than $119 million for projects funded by Bond C, $24.5 million will go to the University of New Mexico for renovations to its science labs.
“It’s wonderful for the university. It allows us to go ahead and give renovations to these two critical buildings,” President Bob Frank said Tuesday night. “It will give our students access to facilities that are critical for (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and it’ll allow them state of the art facilities, and we will do everything we can to move the renovations along.”
UNM will use the funds to complete long-delayed renovations to its biology and chemistry buildings.
Frank said last month that most high schools have better chemistry and biology labs than the ones at UNM, some of which have ceilings that leak water.
New Mexico college and universities can sigh — for now.
Bond C, a state bond that would allocate more than $119 million to higher education institutions around the state for capital improvement projects, has so far been voted “yes” on by 62 percent of early voters.
Many university and community college presidents consider Bond C crucial to their schools. UNM, which would benefit the most, says it has buildings in desperate need of repair. The university would get $24.5 million for improvements.
Last time around, voters rejected a state bond that would have also allocated money for capital projects. But that bond had a new tax attached, which school leaders say was a major reason it was defeated. Bond C would not raise taxes.
Universities and colleges have been aggressively touting the bond.
“None of you would want your students educated in the current set of facilities we’re using right now,” UNM President Bob Frank said last month. “If you went in there with your students on a college tour and you would look at that, you’d say ‘I’m sending my kid somewhere else.’ And that’s the blunt truth of it …”
Frank and other New Mexico higher ed leaders were concerned voters would reject the bond after the controversy surrounding former New Mexico State University president Barbara Couture, who resigned unexpectedly and received a nearly half-million-dollar payout even though she had a job lined up. NMSU and its regents were also criticized for the secrecy surrounding Couture’s departure.