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Mayor signs $115M bond package

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Mayor Richard Berry signed a $115 million package of bond projects on Friday that will go before voters this fall.

The proposal includes $1.5 million for an economic-development project centering on a partnership with the University of New Mexico. It’s modeled on “Innovation Square” in Florida.

Berry had sought $2 million for the effort, but councilors trimmed it by $500,000 earlier this month. On Friday, Berry said he hopes he and the council can find the extra money elsewhere to restore the funding.

“At the end of the day, we compromised and got a good bond package together for folks to vote on,” Berry said in an interview.

The proposal substantially trims the amount of money that could be available for “ABQ: The Plan,” an initiative strongly supported by Berry.

Councilors eliminated $3.25 million in bond funding for river amenities and bosque-trail development, components of “The Plan.” But the council agreed to fund those projects out of $2.9 million in the operating budget, which had money set aside for unspecified capital projects

That’s “important to me,” Berry said of the council decision to release the operating funds.

Among other changes councilors made to Berry’s initial proposal:

♦ Affordable housing would get $2.5 million, up from the original proposal of $1.75 million.

♦ Animal shelters would get $1.4 million, up from the original proposal of $600,000.

The mayor’s original proposal was for a $110 million bond package, but councilors increased it to $115 million after financial advisers said there was additional capacity. The program won’t result in a tax increase because new bonds are issued as old ones are paid off.

Still, this year’s capital budget is substantially smaller than usual. Two years ago, the city proposed about $164 million in projects.

The slimmed-down total this year is due, in part, to decisions over the past decade to take property-tax revenue normally earmarked for capital projects and use it instead to help prop up the operating budget. A 4 percent drop in property values since 2009 is another factor.

The bond proposals will be broken into a series of questions for the October ballot.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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