Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education decided to include a 4.7 percent property tax increase on its mill levy, bond election ballot, which is slated for February.
But it will be up to voters in that special, mail-in election if that tax increase will move forward.
Including the tax increase on the ballot was passed on a 6-1 vote by the Board of Education at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón was the only one who voted against, saying she isn’t a tax increase “kind of person” typically but she kept an open mind to the discussion. But she also emphasized people she spoke with in the community didn’t understand the need for APS to ask for a tax increase.
APS Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder presented a priority list of capital projects – including 11 new projects, 23 ongoing projects and other maintenance, security and technology work – the $1.12 billion collected over six years through the mill levy and school bond would go to. No new schools will be built.
The total new projects and ongoing construction is estimated to cost $552.98 million in construction and design costs alone.
Elder highlighted to the board increased construction and material costs and labor shortages are upping projects’ price tags.
To make up for the deficit, Elder and the Capital Master Plan Review Committee recommended voters be asked to consider a 4.7 percent property tax increase.
For a homeowner with a $220,000-valued house – with a $73,333 net taxable value – the increase would translate to $146.67 a year and $12.22 a month.
It’s been 12 years since APS has asked for a tax increase, said Elder.
“APS has not asked for a tax increase since 2006,” he said. “We have ridden out the recession and ridden out construction costs for a long time.”
“As a school leader … I don’t know how to come to you and share ‘this is what we need’ and not ask for it,” added Elder.
If passed, the mill increase would be in place for the next six years. In 2024, the board would have to pass a resolution for a new tax authorization and taxpayers would have to approve it again at that time.
If not passed, Elder told the board his team would have to re-evaluate the proposed capital work and figure out which projects would be pushed back.
Michele Walsh, a first-time home owner, told the board she feels an increase in taxes would be a deterrent to millennial home buyers like herself.
“My population has worked very hard to own a home in this state,” she said. “This is going to greatly affect the millennial population we are trying to keep in the state.”
Of the about dozen speakers, most were opposed to the possibility of a tax hike.
Rich Huber, a resident of Albuquerque, called the tax a “burden” and Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, said he thinks APS has enough money.
“I think it’s time APS prioritize the already ample and growing resources in a more effective manner,” he told the board.
Others felt the tax increase was a necessary investment into education.
Robert Baade, a former community member on the Capital Master Plan Committee, was in favor of the tax increase.
“It’s clearly a worst-first system,” he said about the APS capital planning process. “I say ‘yes’ for our children,” he said.
Board member Barbara Petersen said she supports the increase but noted it’s ultimately up to voters.
“I think there is compelling evidence to support an increase, but we aren’t doing that and we don’t have that power,” she said. “We’re putting it out to the voters.”