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Santa Fe voters to face $22.8M bond package

SANTA FE — Come March, Santa Fe voters will be asked to approve a multimillion-dollar bond package in exchange for a slight increase in property taxes.

There was some slicing and dicing, but the Santa Fe City Council has agreed to put a $22.8 million general obligation bond on the March 6 municipal election ballot.

Separately, councilors also approved a $22 million capital improvement projects bond, which will be funded using gross receipts tax revenue.

“We cannot count on the feds or the state anymore and as far as the future, I think this does address some of the future needs we have. It’s part of creating a good environment for the future of our city,” said City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez.

The general obligation bond projects range from police and fire infrastructure to a new regional park in southwest Santa Fe.

Proposals will be divided into three separate categories on the ballot. They are:

♦ Public Safety, with $1.5 million to expand the Police Department headquarters and $3.5 million for the Fire Department to build a new fire station for newly annexed territory, and to buy vehicles, uniforms and gear for hazardous materials.

♦ Parks and Trails, with $5 million for a regional park in southwest Santa Fe; $6 million for trail improvements, including $2 million for a crossing at St. Francis Drive and Alameda Street; and $3 million for park improvements.

♦ Sustainability and Environmental initiatives, to fund $2 million in arroyo drainage improvements and a $1.8 million solar energy project at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

The $22.8 million tally is markedly less than the $30 million in projects initially considered by city officials.

Councilors nixed a proposal to spend $3 million on a visitors center at the Santa Fe Railyard. They also reduced the pot for Internet broadband infrastructure from $2 million to $1 million and moved the project to the CIP bond.

The council also shifted $1 million in affordable housing down-payment assistance and renewable energy loans from the general obligation bond to the CIP bond list. City officials made that move because of legal reasons.

Other 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 city normally issues a CIP bond about once every two years.

The City Council divided the bond questions into several different votes. Councilors Patti Bushee, Matthew Ortiz and Miguel Chavez offered the most resistance, while Mayor David Coss and Councilors Dominguez, Ron Trujillo, Chris Calvert, Rosemary Romero and Rebecca Wurzburger were generally in support of the proposals.

Bushee, Ortiz and Chavez expressed worries, including the fiscal implication of the bonds on the city’s budget, a perceived lack of transparency about bond projects and the effect of increased property taxes on some city residents.

The amount of the property tax increase will depend on how many general obligation bond categories are approved by voters. City officials couldn’t provide a concrete number Wednesday on the $22.8 million total. With a $30 million bond, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay an extra $70 a year.