Editorial: Journal recommends 'yes' vote on slate of state, local bonds - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Journal recommends ‘yes’ vote on slate of state, local bonds

Here are the Journal’s recommendations on the state and local bond questions that appear on the back of general election ballots. If approved by simple majority votes, the bonds would not result in higher property tax rates because they would replace expired or expiring GO bonds. Property taxes would theoretically go down if they were defeated. For election information, including candidate Q&As, district maps and news stories, go to the Journal Election Guide at abqjournal.com.

State Bond Question 1— For

This question would authorize the state to issue $24,470,000 of general obligation bonds to make construction and equipment improvements at senior citizen facilities in 21 counties in the state.

The Gallup Senior Center in McKinley County would be the single largest recipient, receiving $5,414,300 for construction costs and $76,000 for vehicles.

Other big-ticket projects include the North Valley Senior Center in Bernalillo County, $2,971,442 for renovations; Santa Cruz Senior Center in Santa Fe County, $2,041,441 for construction; Amalia Senior Center in Taos County, $1,450,000 for construction; Alejandro Ruiz Senior Center in Eddy County, $1,352,442 for renovations and $162,024 for vehicles; and Palo Duro Senior Center in Bernalillo County, $1 million.

All of the other projects are less than $1 million for either construction, renovation, equipment, vehicles, planning or code compliance.

Unfortunately, 26 of the 72 total line-item bonds are for vehicles, which will likely be out of commission before the bonds used to buy them for senior centers have been paid off. Still, our seniors deserve quality, up-to-date facilities to gather, socialize, exercise and receive low-cost meals, and we therefore recommend approval of the bond.

The State Board of Finance estimates the bond would cost the owner of a property with an asset value of $100,000 about $1.05 annually over 10 years.

State Bond Question 2 — For

This question would authorize the state to issue $19,266,000 of general obligation bonds for library resources and equipment.

The bond would allocate $7 million to the Cultural Affairs Department for library equipment, furniture, fixtures and supplemental library resource acquisitions, information technology projects and to purchase and install broadband internet at tribal and non-tribal public libraries statewide; $6 million for Higher Education Department academic library resources statewide; and $6 million for Public Education Department public school library resource acquisitions statewide.

Libraries remain important resources and sources of information, even in the 21st century as they adapt to delivering resources online, and we therefore recommend approval of the bond that is projected to cost the owner of a $100,000 property 82 cents a year over 10 years.

State Bond Question 3 — For

This question would authorize the issuance of $215,986,000 of general obligation bonds for capital projects at 28 higher education institutions, special schools and tribal schools in 20 counties.

The three largest recipients would be $45 million to the University of New Mexico to construct new College of Fine Arts buildings (some lacking Wi-Fi), $36 million to UNM Health Sciences Center to expand its child psychology center and enable it to offer more beds for acute in-patient care, and $22.5 million to New Mexico State University for engineering facilities.

Other large projects among the 31 line items include $15 million to Central New Mexico Community College to construct a trades and applied technology facility, $13.5 million to NMSU for a health and social sciences building, and $10.5 million to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to replace its outdated headquarters at NMSU built in 1973.

Other capital projects of at least $900,000 would be spread among higher ed institutions across the state.

University leaders say new facilities are needed to educate a workforce with needed skills. Many facilities are badly in need of renovations to offer modern, safe facilities, and GO bonds are the only opportunity for many institutions to receive sufficient funding to make upgrades.

Bond 3 is also estimated to create 2,000 jobs on construction, architecture and related fields.

The $215 million price tag may seem high, but the money will help New Mexico institutions offer competitive college programs, certificates and degrees and result in construction jobs, economic activity and long-term investments in our state’s infrastructure and public facilities.

We therefore recommend approval of the bond, which is estimated to cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $9.26 annually over 10 years.

All three bonds, totaling $258,759,165, are estimated to cost the owner of a $100,000 property an annual average of $11.13.

Bernalillo County General Obligation Bonds — For

In the 23 years Clay Campbell has been employed with Bernalillo County, voters have never rejected a general obligation bond package to help fund capital improvements. Campbell, now the chief of staff for the Bernalillo County executive and who oversees the planning portion of the county’s capital improvement plan, says strong messaging in two areas seems to resonate with voters: The bond money is part of a “scaffolding” strategy to attract state capital outlay funds and federal grants for big-ticket projects, and bond approval doesn’t increase taxes.

Bernalillo County has more than $584 million of unfunded projects in its Capital Improvement Plan. The 2022 bond package is $40.5 million and will be leveraged with state, local and federal funding sources to address needs in six areas:

  • Libraries, $1.5 million
  • Public safety, fleet and facilities, $12.9 million
  • Parks and recreation, $11 million
  • Transportation, $10.2 million
  • Storm drainage and utilities, $4.4 million
  • Housing, $425,000

Each of the six areas is addressed in a separate general obligation bond question on the fall ballot.

Most of the bond proceeds are for maintenance or improvements, but $5 million would go toward a new fire station on Edith Boulevard NE; $2 million for a BCSO substation at Eubank and Holly NE; and $4 million for design and construction of a new outdoor pool at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center in the North Valley.

We’ve seen the project list and, in our opinion, it represents reasonable investments — with a familiar exception. Using long-term debt retirement as a means to replace sheriff’s vehicles and the county’s heavy equipment seems fiscally imprudent. But it’s allowable by law and we won’t condemn the entire package over a single sticking point. See the breakdown of projects and costs at bernco.gov/capital-improvement-program/general-obligation-bonds/.

The projects not only improve quality of life in Bernalillo County, but create construction jobs and contribute to economic activity.

While Bernalillo County could bond for a higher dollar value, it doesn’t so that debt service remains manageable. Voter approval of the bonds would not result in higher property tax rates because the debt service for the new bonds would replace prior bonds. For every $100,000 of assessed value, $42.13 of a property owner’s tax bill would go toward debt service.

We urge voters to vote for the six questions that make up this year’s Bernalillo County bond package.

Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority — Yes

At the bottom of this year’s ballot is the bond question for the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA).

Anyone who’s lived in Albuquerque for more than one monsoon season understands the importance of flood control. AMAFCA is the quiet player behind the scenes identifying priorities and building out the infrastructure to channel runoff water safely through the Metro area. AMAFCA builds and maintains dams, spillways, pump stations, surge ponds, levees and drainage systems.

Voters are being asked to approve $25 million in flood-control bonds to help fund projects throughout the Albuquerque area for the next two years. There is no tax increase as a result of approving these bonds.

Over the last six years, the AMAFCA capital program has contributed $118 million to the local economy, or an average of $19 million dollars a year, funding studies, design and construction of flood control and water quality facilities in the urban area supporting over 800 local jobs.

Currently AMAFCA has $48 million of outstanding debt and has a statutory limit of $80 million. AMAFCA has held its debt service mill levy to 0.675, unchanged since 1999. A home with a market value of $300,000 pays about $68 a year toward AMAFCA’s debt service.

We urge voters to vote “yes” to AMAFCA’s “Flood Control” bond question.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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