ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Supporters and opponents of an Albuquerque Public Schools proposed tax hike went head-to-head on the pros and cons of an increase at a forum Tuesday night.
Opponents think APS should be more strategic with its current budget. Supporters said it’s an investment by the community for the community.
If voters approve, property taxes would go up just under 5 percent, with the tax rate going from 10.45 to 12.45, according to APS.
For a $220,000 home, the proposed tax increase will add another $147 a year to the tax bill.
The district and Superintendent Raquel Reedy, who also attended the forum, have said the rate increase is necessary due to rising construction costs and security needs.
Roughly 75 people attended the debate, which was at the KANW radio station, and included the full APS Board of Education.
Yolanda Montoya-Cordova, an APS board member, was a forum panelist, along with Kizito Wijenje, the executive director of APS’ capital master plan, who represented supporters.
Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, and Mark Boitano, former state senator and local realtor, were the opposition.
The panel, which was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico, debated whether the tax was necessary.
The $900 million generated from the ballot questions would go to technology, construction, instructional materials, school security and maintenance, among other items on the district’s capital master plan strategy.
Ballots will be mailed through Jan. 15 and have to be in by Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. Contact the Bernalillo County Clerk for information.
Opponents believe APS can consolidate and reallocate what it already has.
For instance, Gessing said APS could repurpose current facilities that aren’t at full capacity.
“There are facilities available,” Gessing said, citing a drop in student enrollment.
Gessing also said the district could save money in other ways, such as using a standard building design instead of hiring an architect for each project. He pushed on the cost of the special, mail-in election, which is estimated at over $1 million, saying that is money that could have been saved, too.
And he stressed better facilities don’t guarantee better academic results.
Boitano said the tax rate will affect different parts of the city uniquely, claiming the estimated 4.7 percent increase would actually be higher for certain areas such as the University of New Mexico area.
He was also against the proposed property tax rate increase because he said property taxes already go up three percent each year.
Supporters argued this is a crucial increase to invest in students and their education at a time when construction costs are on the rise.
Montoya-Cordova shared her personal narrative, recalling going to old APS school buildings, and remembering the significance upgrades had on her and her education.
She said a child’s environment is impactful on their wellbeing and students shouldn’t have to worry about plumbing issues or having hot water.
Wijenje also stressed students shouldn’t have to worry about safety and said voting “yes” would be a vote for security in schools.
About $20 million of the election money would be used for school security.
Wijenje said the money would also help in the classroom as it would be used for technology and learning equipment, including musical instruments.