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Special election to cost APS over $1 million

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An upcoming election is projected to cost Albuquerque Public Schools over $1 million in administrative costs due to changes in election law.

APS is planning a mill levy, bond election in February for capital projects. But the Local Election Act – passed earlier this year – requires the district to hold a special election that must be done by mail per the new law.

The total election administration cost is estimated at $1,017,250, which the APS Board of Education discussed at Monday’s Capital Outlay, Property and Technology meeting.

APS has asked the Legislature for some financial support to cover the cost, according to Kizito Wijenje, executive director of Capital Master Plan.

“The extra cost is because it’s a special mail-in election,” he emphasized to the Journal.

Postage alone is expected to cost the district $420,000.

Wijenje said the bill particularly impacts capital projects.

The Board of Education is holding the special mail-in election with the aim of lessening the bill’s effects on the APS Capital Program and to bridge revenue gaps that may be a result of the changes, documents from the meeting explain.

The Local Election Act went into effect July 1 and aims to save taxpayer money and combat voter fatigue by consolidating elections in November so voters are called to the polls just once a year. It requires school elections to take place in November on odd numbered years together with other non-partisan elections.

Joe Guillen, executive director of the New Mexico School Board Association, has previously highlighted widespread district opposition to the legislation.

Wijenje also noted the bill doesn’t just affect APS but other districts across the state too.

Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution earlier this month that asks the state to revaluate the Local Election Act and rescind the parts of the bill that affect school district elections.

“There are serious financial consequences for the district,” SFPS Board of Education President Steven Carrillo said.

While Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said he is sensitive to the district’s challenges, he said it’s a transitional issue and it will remedy itself when schools adjust to that new cycle.

“When this same issue comes around three to five years from now, they can plan ahead and go to voters in an election in November,” he said. But in terms of changing the law to exclude school district elections, he said, “I would see that as an uphill climb.”