Voters to decide on $216M for education throughout the state - Albuquerque Journal

Voters to decide on $216M for education throughout the state

Voting stickers are shown at an Albuquerque polling place in June. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

More than $200 million is at stake when New Mexico voters consider Bond Question 3, a general obligation bond for higher education that would help pay for a children’s psychiatric center and dozens of other projects at colleges and universities throughout the state.

The bonds, which go before voters every two years, are the main source of capital improvement money for public colleges, universities and other specialty schools in the state.

If approved, there would be about $216 million distributed statewide, including $89.2 million for the University of New Mexico and its branch campuses.

In Bernalillo County, Central New Mexico Community College would get $15 million for a trades and applied technology facility; the University of New Mexico would receive $45 million to build a Center for Collaborative Arts and Technology; and the UNM Health Sciences Center would collect $36 million for a Children’s Psychiatric Center.

The latter project would address several statewide shortcomings when it comes to providing care to children with psychiatric health issues, said Dr. Mauricio Tohen, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UNM School of Medicine.

He said the HSC has about 35 beds for such child patients, which are spread across a series of cottages on the north campus, and an adolescent inpatient unit. Plans are for the new center to have 52 beds, as well as more cutting-edge technology to better care for more acute patients, Tohen said.

He said staffing and other infrastructure issues at the existing center mean that the HSC sometimes couldn’t staff existing beds, or had to send patients to the regular children’s hospital.

“Those beds could be occupied by children who have medical-care needs. So, they are displaced,” Tohen said. “So, it’s a long domino effect, with number one, it leads to poor care. And, number two, it also leads to more expensive care.”

Rodney McNease, executive director of governmental affairs for UNM hospitals, said that, if the measure is approved, the bonds would come close to fully funding the new center. Planning would start early next year and the facility could be open by 2025, he said.

UNM would also receive $45 million for a new College of Fine Arts building if the bond question is approved. Harris Smith, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said the college is currently spread across 13 buildings on campus and many of the buildings are around 60 years old.

He said the college is growing rapidly, which he credited to the movie industry in the state, as well as major investments in recent years by Netflix and NBCUniversal.

“So, we’re growing,” he said. “The areas that specifically are impacted with the film industry are seeing growth.”

The money from the bond would cover much of the first phase of the project, Smith said.

Voter approval would mark the sixth consecutive statewide election that voters signed off on tens of millions of dollars for projects at public colleges and universities.

Steven Gamble, a co-chair of a GO Bonds for Education Committee, which promotes the bond question, said New Mexicans have long supported the higher education institutions in the state. He said the proposal has failed only twice, most recently in 2010.

If voters approve the bonds, property taxes won’t increase, he said. The mill levy rate has been flat since 2011 and would stay flat if the bond question is approved, according to a memo from the Department of Finance and Administration. It wasn’t clear how much property taxes would go down if the measure fails.

“Our students deserve state-of-the-art facilities in which to study,” Gamble said. “If we can do that and not increase people’s tax obligation, we think it’s a great deal.”

Paul Gessing, executive director of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative think tank, suggested in a blog post that people vote against all the bond questions on the ballot, especially for higher education.

He said the state already supports higher education, and the colleges and universities are too fragmented across the state. “We put a lot of money into higher education, with the opportunity scholarship and free college. We have long had concerns,” he said. “In particular with higher education, I think it’s time for a reevaluation and a more focused approach to those resources.”

Other statewide bond questions on the ballot would raise $24 million for senior centers and another would send $19 million to libraries.

Early voting is underway and Election Day is Nov. 8.

Home » 2022 election » Voters to decide on $216M for education throughout the state


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
NM election results certified by board
2022 election
Supreme Court sets oral arguments on ... Supreme Court sets oral arguments on redistricting challenge for Ja
2
Bernalillo County certifies midterm election results
2022 election
All counties have now sent totals ... All counties have now sent totals for Nov. 29 canvass
3
NM voters had their say. Now the education amendment ...
2022 election
Measure to boost annual withdrawals backed ... Measure to boost annual withdrawals backed by 70% of voters statewide
4
New Mexico begins certification process for midterm elections
2022 election
Process has become a focal point ... Process has become a focal point for those voicing distrust in voting systems
5
NM ethics agency sues advocacy group
2022 election
Lawsuit accuses group of violating state ... Lawsuit accuses group of violating state campaign law
6
NM GOP officials face intraparty strife after latest election ...
2022 election
Some Republicans have called on state ... Some Republicans have called on state chairman Steve Pearce to resign
7
Martínez nominated to serve as House speaker
2022 election
Democrats also name majority floor leader, ... Democrats also name majority floor leader, whip and caucus chair
8
Redrawn CD2 riles Republicans after defeat
2022 election
Rep. Herrell said Dems engineered her ... Rep. Herrell said Dems engineered her ouster
9
BernCo official's conduct challenged
2022 election
Citizen's complaint alleges inappropriate campaign contribution Citizen's complaint alleges inappropriate campaign contribution