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Mayor puts forth bond idea that could raise $73M, and taxes

SANTA FE, N.M. — Mayor Alan Webber announced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that he plans to introduce a pair of bond proposals that could raise $73 million to improve city facilities and roads, and support public safety efforts – including one under which voters would likely be asked to increase property taxes.

On Thursday, Webber reached out to the Journal to clarify that these are merely proposals meant to begin a discussion and that nothing has been decided yet.

“In order to have the conversation, you have to start the process,” Webber said. “It’s way premature to say that anyone has decided anything.”

Alan Webber

Webber said that he introduced the measures Wednesday in order to meet deadlines to put one of the bond measures on the ballot for a special election that would be held concurrently with the Nov. 6 general election, should the city decide to go that route.

So it would be up to voters to decide whether to approve a bond sale that would likely increase property taxes to support a $60 million general obligation bond to pay for upgrades for public safety and roadwork.

“It’s not something the mayor decides. It requires consideration by the governing body, participation by department heads, and ultimately it depends on the voter and the voters’ appetite. It’s not a decision, but it creates the capacity to have a discussion about it,” Webber said.

It’s unclear now how much property taxes would increase if voters approved the general obligation bond, Bradley Fluetsch, the city’s financial planning and reporting officer, said.

That would be up to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration to determine.

“We don’t set the rate,” he said. “The DFA sets the rate that’s necessary to cover the debt service.”

That won’t happen until after the city submits its entire bond portfolio, with information about mill rates, interest rates and debt service.

“The net result, absent anything else, would mean property taxes would go up,” Fluetsch said.

Voters would know how much property taxes would increase, if at all, by the time a ballot measure is set, Fluetsch said.

Matt Ross, the city’s public information officer, said that current estimates put the increase at about $74 annually per $100,000 of a property’s market value. That would mean a $222 annual increase in taxes for owners of property with a market value of $300,000.

Santa Fe voters have historically looked favorably on tax increases. But last year, voters soundly defeated a Santa Fe County gross receipts tax increase in September and a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in May, both in special elections.

From all sources, including the schools, Santa Fe County and Santa Fe Community College, property taxes in Santa Fe went up 20 percent between 2012 and 2016.

Webber’s other proposal, a call for up to $13 million to be put toward facility and infrastructure improvements that would be paid back through gross receipts taxes, would be up to the City Council to decide on its own without the voters’ OK. If approved, it would not result in a GRT increase.

“We have plenty of capacity currently to issue this without affecting any type of tax for the GRT,” Fluetsch said.

The proposals should begin making their way through the committee process this month and could be considered by the City Council as early as June.