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APS Board Endorses Tax Hike

By Amy Miller
Journal Staff Writer
    The Albuquerque school board endorsed a plan Wednesday that included raising taxes to build schools and ease overcrowding.
    School administrators said they would recommend next month when the board should ask for a tax increase and how big it should be.
    "We've got to turn to our taxpayers and suck it up and say, 'This is what we need to do,'" board member Leonard DeLayo said.
    The board vote was 6-0, with Gordon Rowe absent.
    School officials say the district needs $1.7 billion to build schools and renovate aging facilities. But it has not raised taxes in six years, arguing that the city has one of the highest tax rates in the state.
    Mayor Martin Chávez and others have harshly criticized the district for its reluctance to raise taxes.
    A tax increase was just one of several proposals in the plan created by a committee of parents, politicians, developers and educators.
    "I can't go back to my community members with just a proposal for a tax increase," said committee member Karen Giannini, who co-chairs an APS citizens advisory council. "I just can't."
    Other ideas were:
   
  • Selling property the district doesn't need.
       
  • Working out an agreement with the city and county so buyers of new homes pay a fee to defray the costs of building schools in their neighborhoods.
       
  • Examining the formula the state uses to allocate money for school construction.
       
  • Working with the city and state to create tax incentives that help developers and communities pay for school construction.
        All the ideas could help prevent future problems with overcrowding and school maintenance, DeLayo said.
        But raising taxes was the one piece of the plan that could raise money for the district's capital needs soon and help make the district less dependent on state funds, he said.
        To gain community support for raising taxes, committee members said the district must show it isn't wasting money.
        The committee also recommended the district:
       
  • Use classrooms and schools more efficiently.
       
  • Develop prototypes, or models, for new schools to save money during planning.
       
  • Lease schools built by developers to offset construction costs.
       
  • Share facilities with the state, county and city.
       
  • Move several charter schools into one building.
        "We have to show the community the value of what they're getting," said committee member Laura Horton, who is president of the Ventana Ranch Neighborhood Association. "And that the school district is being run efficiently."