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Court OKs ballot language ruling on APS mill levy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that even though the Albuquerque Public Schools did not comply with the election statute in its wording on the February mill levy and bond ballot, it did not prevent citizens from casting an informed vote.

The legal challenge was made by property owner and attorney Robert Pidcock two days after the certification of the election results. He claimed APS chose to use the wording “mill levy” instead of “public school building tax” as required by statute. More specifically, he maintained, the APS language did not specify that the question was whether a voter was for or against a “public school buildings tax.”

“If these ballot measures are upheld, APS could construct a $575 million APS executive-only health clinic (perhaps a spa or restaurant) or a $575 million sports stadium … and there would be nothing that a voter/property owner in the APS district could do about it,” he said in the complaint.

Only 6.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the Feb. 2 election. They overwhelmingly approved the $375 million mill levy and another $200 million in general obligation bonds for APS and Central New Mexico Community College.

Second Judicial District Chief Judge Nan Nash said she interpreted case law as requiring her to give deference to the election results, in which 65 percent of voters approved the funding measures.

Pidcock subsequently appealed the ruling to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ruled Wednesday. The case bypassed the state Court of Appeals, which is normal in election cases, “and if the Supreme Court refuses to consider the appeal there simply is no appeal, and that’s what happened here,” Pidcock said Thursday.

District Court also failed to deal with his argument that the school district’s proposed APS health clinic “is not a school building and therefore could not be funded through the proceeds of this election,” he said.

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