On the Nov. 8 general election ballot, the Santa Fe County Commission is proposing five separate bond issues totaling $35 million. If all are approved, the bonds would be supported by a property tax increase that amounts to $15 a year on a home with an assessed value of $300,000.
The county and local school districts should not consider property taxes – low in New Mexico relative to most of the country – a bottomless pit for new revenue, particularly in a place like Santa Fe where an aging population can be hit the hardest. We hope local governments will do more to find ways to finance capital improvements within their budgets or by seeking renewal of property taxes previously approved for expiring bonds.
But the county’s ballot proposals are for worthy projects – $13.6 million for roads; $4.8 million for water and wastewater projects; $7 million for fire stations and the county’s public safety complex off N.M. 14; $4.6 million for open space and trails, including the Santa Fe River trail and improvements near Petroglyph Hill south of town; and $5 million toward construction an expansion of a regional health center in Edgewood and a planned behavioral health crisis or triage center near or in Santa Fe. Voters can vote yes or no on each bond issue.
Overall, the bonds seems like a pretty good bang for the buck on what is a small tax increase. The Journal North recommends yes votes on the five bond proposals.
The County Commission is also asking for the opinion of voters via a non-binding “advisory” question about whether they support adding one-eighth of 1 percent to gross receipts taxes to go toward behavioral health services. The GRT increase, if actually enacted at some point by the County Commission, would be passed on to consumers to add 2½ cents to a $20 purchase.
The revenues, estimated at $1.5 million a year, would help support operations at the crisis center, which is planned as part one of the bond issues on the ballot.
The idea of increased funding to attack the area’s long-standing and tragic drug problem, along with other behavioral health issues, is a good one that deserves the community’s support.
But this issue should be tackled by the County Commission with a fleshed-out plan and a budget, specifics and locked-in assurances that the money would go where it’s needed. The commissioners would have to vote to raise taxes in any case, whatever the results from what amounts to an opinion poll. We recommend voting against the advisory question on the ballot.