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Committee Deadlocked On Bond

SANTA FE, N.M. — A $30 million general obligation bond package got a lukewarm reception Monday night from the Santa Fe Finance Committee.

Committee members deadlocked on a vote to recommend the proposal, which calls for voters to approve a slight increase in property taxes.

City Councilors Carmichael Dominguez and Rosemary Romero were in favor of the measure, while Councilors Patti Bushee and Matthew Ortiz dissented. Ortiz, who chairs the Finance Committee and wouldn’t normally vote in most matters, jumped in to create the tie.

The package therefore goes to the full City Council with no recommendation from the Finance Committee. The governing body will decide Nov. 30 whether to put the bond on the March 6 municipal election ballot.

Dominguez said Santa Fe can use the bond money to create opportunities for its residents.

“Part of the intent of the general obligation bond … is to somewhat stimulate the economy. It’s obvious we can’t count on the feds or the state even to invest in our community the way they used to,” he said.

But Ortiz and Bushee said a number of issues pertaining to the bond remain unclear, including some project details, dollar figures, the bond’s relationship to a concurrent capital improvement projects bond and how the bond will appear on the ballot.

Ortiz said the proposal need to “be as clear and concise as possible” if voters are being asked to consent to a property tax increase. And, with some exceptions, the city is asking the public to vote on “a sort of shot in the dark,” he said.

“I don’t think this bond is ready to go prime time,” Bushee said.

The Finance Committee did approve a $20 million capital improvement projects bond, which will be funded using gross receipts tax revenue. The city normally issues such a bond about once every two years.

Proposed projects for the CIP bond include infrastructure maintenance, new buses, arts funding, improvements to the Santa Fe Railyard, and matching funds for federal money allocated to the airport and transit.

The general obligation bond’s list of proposed projects includes police and fire infrastructure, a solar energy venture at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, arroyo improvements and a regional park in southwest Santa Fe.

A plan to include a couple of million dollars for affordable housing initiatives has been nixed due to legal reasons, however.

In response, the Finance Committee added $1 million in affordable housing down payment assistance and renewable energy loans to the CIP bond list.

The committee also added almost a half-million dollars for bicycle-related improvements and work on Paseo de Peralta, bringing the total for the CIP bond to just under $21 million.

Committee members also failed to reach consensus on how the general obligation bond might appear on the March ballot. City staff has suggested parsing the $30 million into five separate categories.

The amount of the property tax increase would depend on how many categories are approved by voters. If all projects met with approval, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay an extra $70 a year.

To help educate the public, Ortiz suggested the city schedule a public hearing and discussion for each of the categories that might appear on the ballot.

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