Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Northern New Mexico voters will answer several local and statewide bond questions, and consider a few New Mexico constitutional amendments that are on the ballot for the 2020 general election.
Santa Fe County has three bond questions that aim to fund different capital improvements, including roadways, water systems and open spaces projects.
Here’s a look at the general obligation bond questions that will appear on the ballot in northern New Mexico counties:
• Santa Fe County residents’ ballots asks voters to consider three bond questions, the first asks for $4.8 million to restore open space, parks and trials. This will go toward installing new sports lighting at the Pojoaque Valley Recreation Complex, constructing the Santa Fe River Trail from Siler to San Ysidro, and a segment of the Santa Fe Rail Trail.
The second bond question asks voters for about $11.4 million to improve county roads. This includes such projects as milling and inlaying Agua Fria and Caja Del Oro, and repaving and drainage for County Road 78, Rancho Alegre Feeder Routes.
The third bond question asks for $3.7 million to improve county water and wastewater projects. This includes installing a water line system in Romero Park between Aqua Fria Park and Caja del Oro Grant roads in Santa Fe.
All bond questions are requesting funding through general ad valorem taxes, which wouldn’t raise property taxes on Santa Fe County residents.
• Rio Arriba County is asking residents to continue the 4.25 mill levy on property taxes to support the Presbyterian Española Hospital. The mill levy would take effect in 2021 and continue for eight years. This mill levy has been ongoing since 1996, according to the hospital.
Continuing the mill levy would help the hospital upgrade and expand its surgical areas; create a new 25,000-square-foot emergency department and fund independent rural clinics, such as La Clinica del Pueblo, La Clinicas del Norte, Rio Arriba County Treatment Center and El Centro Family Health.
• Mora County residents will vote on whether or not to approve $3.5 million funding for its Mora County Administrative Complex. This bond funding will come from general ad valorem taxes and will not raise taxes on residents.
Residents are paying about $7 a month under the current bond and this amount wouldn’t change if the new bond is approved, according to the county.
If approved, county staff will be moved to the complex and there will be space for other government agencies in it, as well, according to the county. The bond will allow the county to dispense with the portable buildings it has been using, which will save taxpayers’ money.
State bond questions
Voters throughout New Mexico have three state bond questions to consider:
• Bond Question A is asking for $33.2 million to improve senior citizen facilities across the state. The state has identified almost 100 senior citizen centers that would benefit from the funds.
The centers would be able to purchase new vehicles, renovate facilities and even pay for new construction. Some centers that would benefit are the San Ildefonso Pueblo Senior Center (renovation), the Las Vegas Senior Center (renovation) and the San Miguel Senior Center (vehicles and more).
• Bond Question B asks for $9.5 million for public, academic, public school and tribal school public library resources. This would include providing library furniture, and such supplemental resources as library technology and broadband internet equipment at tribal and non-tribal public libraries.
• Bond Question C asks for $155.9 million for capital improvements at higher education, special and tribal schools. This includes construction of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center nursing building, and renovations of the Institute of American Indian Arts academic and museum collection facility and the Navajo Technical University Science and Trades building, and more.
The money to fund these general obligation bonds would come from property taxes. If approved, the bonds would be issued in January or February 2021 and those funds would be available to recipients spring 2021.
Voters throughout New Mexico will consider two state Constitutional amendments:
• State Constitutional Amendment 1 would allow the governor to appoint three people to regulate public utilities. This would change the Public Regulation Commission, which was previously made up of elected people who must meet qualifying standards.
The appointment would last six years and prospective appointees would have to go through a nominating committee before being appointed.
Arguments for the amendment include having better qualified commissioners who have understanding of utility law. The commission is quasi-judicial and the New Mexico Supreme Court has had to overrule commission decisions that called into question commissioners’ understanding of public utility law.
Arguments against the amendment include the lack of public accountability commissioners would have by losing elected status. This could mean reduced representation for people in certain parts of the state.
• Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow state lawmakers, excluding statewide offices, to change elected office terms. It would standardize when elected officers begin their term to Jan 1.
This amendment allows lawmakers to balance the elections on the ballot to address election cycle issues without going through Constitutional amendments for each office.
However, it gives state lawmakers more power over elections and term adjustments may not be specific enough to address problems. By allowing lawmakers to shorten or lengthen election terms, it also may become inequitable for some elected offices.