SANTA FE – New programs at the El Rito campus of Northern New Mexico College are meant to put locals in vocational jobs that are in demand, but residents must first approve a mill levy to reopen the shuttered campus.
Voters who live in the Pojoaque Valley, Española, Mesa Vista, Jemez Mountain and Chama school districts will see a proposal on the ballot in Tuesday’s election that would impose a $2 property tax on every $1,000 of net taxable property.
Property taxes are based on the assessed value of a home, which is one-third of the property’s market value. On a home with a market value of $300,000 and an assessed value of $100,000, homeowners can expect to pay $200 per year, or $16.67 per month, in additional property taxes if the two-mill increase is approved.
With the new funding, NNMC President Richard Bailey said, the El Rito campus, which closed in 2015, could open again as soon as fall 2020.
If the levy is turned down, Bailey said re-opening the campus and keeping it open will be much harder.
“I don’t think anyone embraces new taxes,” Bailey said. “We have to be very sensitive in the way we are asking voters for their investment. The mill levy is far more than an educational endeavor. It’s an economic endeavor.”
Bailey said the first programs at the campus would be for plumbers and pipefitters, and electricians, jobs he says are in high demand around the state.
But the hope is that those who benefit from the new classes will stay in the area. The Los Alamos National Laboratory has an ongoing need for vocational workers, a lab spokesperson says.
“As an institution with hundreds of aging buildings, half of which were built before 1970, and roughly 12,000 employees, we’ve long had a steady need for plumbers and electricians,” LANL spokesman Matt Nerzig said in an email.
Tilly Nichols, interim executive director of the Española Chamber of Commerce, said she believes vocational programs at NNMC will keep locals employed at LANL instead of the lab having to recruit people from outside the state.
“It would be nice to keep those jobs in the community,” Nichols said. “Right now, the training just isn’t there for people in the valley.”
The El Rito campus, where NNMC was originally based, closed amid budgetary issues, but Bailey said programs were starting to “evaporate” from the campus about 10 years before that.
Bailey also said the campus had old-fashioned heating and lighting systems that increased costs. The college’s main campus is now in Española.