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APS to go before voters again in November

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Following a complete defeat of its ballot in February, Albuquerque Public Schools is planning to go back to voters later this year, asking them to approve mill levy and bond questions.

APS will be asking voters to re-establish its Senate Bill 9 mill levy – for school maintenance, education and music equipment, technology and school security – to generate $190 million over six years and to issue $100 million in general obligation bonds over four years for capital projects and needs.

Scott Elder, chief operations officer, stressed there will not be a tax rate increase on the ballot.

Kizito Wijenje, capital master plan executive director, added the SB 9 question aims to renew a mill levy that is expiring.

“Basically a renewal of what will expire this year. Same rate on the tax base,” he said.

Election day is slated for Nov. 5, which will be a regular, general election. The ballot will also have APS board member election questions and other city municipal ballot issues, Elder said.

According to preliminary documents, APS is anticipating a total of $302 million in election revenue, including state matching money, if voters approve the measures.

The capital revenue is separate from the district’s operational budget. The capital dollars go to facilities, maintenance and equipment. This category of money does not go toward operational issues such as teacher or staff salaries.

APS documents show a total of about $114 million in November election revenue would go toward maintenance and operations. Other priorities include a projected $13.5 million for school security and $85.5 million for design and construction.

The board also voted to reprioritize funding voters have approved previously. The idea is to redirect that money to higher priority projects that can be completed right away instead of going toward planned projects that won’t have enough money to be finished due to the failed February election.

Based on need and community committees, money for a previously planned health clinic will go toward schools and work at McKinley Middle School will be postponed, for instance.

About 12 projects were identified as priority construction projects under the new plan, including work on bus depots in the district and new classrooms for Career Enrichment Center and Early College Academy and Navajo Elementary School, among others.

“We had to choose … we can’t do all of them,” Wijenje said about the reprioritization.

More information on the district’s plans can be found at https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=44373603.

The Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with the election at a Capital Outlay, Property and Technology committee meeting on Monday.

It will vote on an official election resolution later this month.

The November ballot comes after voters struck down APS’ two mill levy questions and bond issue by wide margins during a February mail-in election. Those questions would have brought in $900 million over six years in part through a tax increase.

If passed, APS would have raised its tax rate from 10.45 to about 12.45 — a 19% rate increase. The district had said that would result in a 4.7% uptick on residents’ total property tax bills.

However, all three questions failed. Elder noted at Monday’s meeting that the loss of funds was a hit, particularly the SB 9 money.

“The loss of maintenance, technology and equipment is a pretty significant and tremendous burden,” he said.

The APS COO emphasized that’s why APS is going before voters again.

“If we do not continue to impose this mill, we do not have the money to maintain our facilities,” Elder told the Journal.

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