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Rio Rancho to vote on higher ed tax

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Rio Rancho city councilors voted 4-2 Wednesday night to hold a special election on Aug. 20 asking voters whether they approve reducing the higher education gross receipts tax from a quarter-cent to one-eighth of a cent.

Voters approved a 20-year tax in 2008 to help the University of New Mexico build the UNM West campus in the city center. It currently brings in about $2 million annually. The city agreed in 2009 to provide about $870,000 toward infrastructure for the campus and $1.5 million annually through 2015 for construction of the building. Budget figures for fiscal year 2014 show the city will have nearly $1.4 million more than it needs to meet its obligation to UNM, the memo said.

UNM president Bob Frank has said the university plans to add courses, work more closely with city schools and the Rio Rancho branch of Central New Mexico Community College to expand its offerings. But he has said UNM currently has no plans to add more buildings to the UNM West campus.

Councilor Chuck Wilkins, who sponsored the measure, has said the city needs the money to add staffing and equipment in the police and fire rescue departments to meet Rio Rancho’s public safety needs.

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