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Sandoval County rejects hospital mill levy extension

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — It appears Sandoval County voters rejected a proposed eight-year extension of a 4.25 mill levy to support Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.

Results posted on the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website about 11:30 p.m. showed 51.2 percent of the voters disapproved of the extension, with 48.8 percent in favor.

“Obviously, the voters looked at their pocketbooks and with everything that was on the ballot said, ‘Hey, I can support this and I can’t support that,” said Sandoval County Commissioner Don Chapman, who supported the renewal.

Voters initially approved the levy in 2008, several years before the hospitals were built. It has been generating about $13.5 million annually, which has been almost evenly apportioned between the two hospitals to support operations. The owner of a home with an assessed valuation of about $200,000 has been paying about $282 a year.

Opponents argued that, by now, the hospitals should be positioned to pay their own way. Some argued that many voters who supported the levy in 2008 thought it would be for no more than eight years, as the ballot language at the time suggested.

Advocates for the tax argued that the hospitals have provided high quality, close to home medical care for county residents, hundreds of new jobs and spin-off economic development. By not renewing the tax, they contended, the hospitals would be forced to curtail or limit the services they offer.