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APS bond election could provide $575M for projects

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote in the Feb. 2 Albuquerque Public Schools bond election, which would provide the district with $575 million for a variety of projects.

If the bond passes, the West Side would get two new schools, including the $50 million Northwest K-8, which is designed to alleviate crowding at Painted Sky Elementary School and Jimmy Carter Middle School.

Building renovation and construction are the funding priorities overall, accounting for $316 million.

Technology upgrades, including computers, tablets and smartboards, would add up to $100 million more.

Kizito Wijenje, executive director of APS’ capital master plan, said the bond money is critical for APS.

“It is important – it is just as important as operational dollars that come from Santa Fe,” he said. “Without this (bond), not only would we not be able to operate adequately, we would not be able to operate at all in some cases.”

Northwest K-8 is the largest project proposed, with construction planned for 2016.

The $8.4 million Family School West Side would also break ground this year, offering an alternative format of half classroom time, half home-based instruction.

Much of the construction money would address crumbling infrastructure, particularly at APS’ oldest buildings, which date to before 1960.

Highland High, La Cueva High and Rio Grande High are in line for improved gym facilities – work totaling more than $40 million.

Other schools are scheduled for smaller upgrades, such as roof replacements, drainage systems, furniture and fiber optics. All Albuquerque charter schools would see improvements thanks to capital funding totaling $58 million.

“The schools are not only aging, they are not appropriate anymore for instruction,” Wijenje said. “When schools were built 40 or 50 years ago, air conditioning was rudimentary, and the fiber optics and the informational technology was nonexistent.”

Another priority is security, which has been under scrutiny recently after major vandalism incidents at two schools caused more than $120,000 in damage. Roughly $5.6 million of the funding would go to new surveillance cameras and central lockdown systems.

New bus depots are also planned as the district takes over more transportation duties.

The 2016 bond package would not raise taxes. Of the $575 million total, $375 million would come from property taxes and $200 million from general obligation bonds.

It would fund the second phase of APS’ Capital Strategy Plan, which runs from 2016 through 2022.

The first phase began in 2010 with a $616 million bond package used to refurbish aging buildings and construct 13 new schools.

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