While Santa Fe’s mayoral election has become increasingly nasty, there’s one issue on the Nov. 2 ballot – with early voting already underway – that everybody should be able to rally around and support.
That issue is making sure that local students have good buildings and up-to-date equipment in order to provide the best learning environments possible.
The Santa Fe school district has two funding measures before voters. No new property tax increases are proposed, although tax rates would go down a bit if voters say ‘no’ to the funding proposals.
One of the ballot measures would authorize issuance of $100 million in general obligation bonds, pitched as renewal of a similarly sized bond in 2017.
Some of the bigger projects slated for bond money include a $22.5 million rebuild/expansion of Mandela International Magnet School; $16.4 million for a new commons area, drop-off zone and breezeway at Santa Fe High School; and more than $14 million in spending at the Early College Opportunities High School, the district’s vocational, trades and early college credit school that needs to expand, with a building for core academic programs and a cafeteria/gym.
Capital High School would get a new roof, Sweeney Elementary is in line for upgrades to security, restrooms, the drop-off area and its electrical system, and Ortiz Middle School would see more than $5 million in overall renovation. An estimated $23.5 million goes to various districtwide projects, including $4.7 million in such sustainability efforts as solar power and water conservation.
While no new taxes are needed to back the GO bonds, the impact on tax rates should the bonds be rejected has been hard to nail down. A ballpark estimate might be something in the neighborhood of $80 a year on a house with a market value of $300,000, which was the tax increase approved for district’s 2017 bond issue, also totaling $100 million.
The other ballot proposal, known as the House Bill 33 Mill Levy, would renew a 1.5 mill property tax, or $1.50 on every $1,000 of taxable value. On a $300,000 home, where taxable value is $100,000, that means $150 a year.
The state-authorized tax raises about $9 million a year for Santa Fe schools, and helps pay for school maintenance, custodial services, repairs, playground equipment and fencing. Funds go to every school in the district, including charter schools.
District officials say the mill-levy money gives the district flexibility to respond to emergencies and that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it paid for such safety improvements as plexiglass barriers, disinfecting machines, HEPA air purifiers, outdoor learning spaces and upgraded HVAC filters.
More than $2.5 million in new money on the ballot is targeted at creating more outdoor learning spaces and improving playgrounds. Nothing on the funding list sounds unnecessary, or like a luxury.
After a big boost in graduation rates last year, the Santa Fe schools still have a long way to go to get academic performance up where everyone wants it, particularly in math and reading proficiency. Providing decent facilities and equipment for students and staff is one way taxpayers can help continue the progress toward achieving Santa Fe’s public education goals.
Here are the Journal North’s endorsements for the four Santa Fe City Council seats on the Nov. 2 election ballot:
District 1: Incumbent Signe Lindell, an avowed animal lover who is seeking a third four-year term. There are other good choices in this multi-candidate race, but Lindell has proven to be a intelligent councilor who puts in the time, knows what she’s talking about, adheres to no clique and, by many accounts, is responsive to constituents.
District 2: Incumbent Carol Romero-Wirth has no opponent, but she deserves an endorsement, anyway, as another smart councilor who prepares for the job. She says that, if reelected, she will emphasize creation of a sustainable fund for affordable housing, strengthening the city’s water resources and development of the city-owned Midtown Campus.
District 3: In a race with two good candidates, incumbent Roman Abeyta gets the nod, mainly because of his tireless and passionate advocacy for his south Santa Fe district. A major feather in his cap is the recent groundbreaking for a Southside teen center.
District 4: Amanda Chavez offers appropriate experience as a city planning commissioner and as a product of Santa Fe Public schools who went on to become a teacher, elementary school principal and, now, director of special education for the district. She should bring a sharp focus to the council’s discussion on how the city can better serve young people.