Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
When Chaves County voters turn in their ballots starting next week, they will consider whether to approve about $11.56 million in funding for area higher education and library projects. Local construction jobs also would be created as a result.
Early voting starts Tuesday, with election day Nov. 6. Among the issues before voters are four statewide general obligation (GO) bond issues totaling about $166 million, according to the New Mexico State Board of Finance. Two of those GO bond issues would provide funding locally to Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, the New Mexico Military Institute and to libraries at those two institutions as well as at public K12 schools and the Roswell Public Library.
“We aren’t telling people to vote for the bonds,” said Dr. Shawn Powell, president of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. “We are just asking people to make an educated decision when they do vote.”
Powell and Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, president and superintendent of New Mexico Military Institute, have been talking at various community meetings in the area about the upcoming bond elections.
As state employees, they are prohibited from advocating on behalf of the bonds, but they are discussing the projects that would be funded and indicating that an estimated 112 construction jobs are tied to the local construction work. Statewide, 1,200 jobs are predicted for the education-related facilities projects.
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“Almost every one of our projects since I have been here have remained in Roswell,” said Grizzle, explaining that local construction companies handled most of the work. “Chaves County is greatly benefited from this work. And I know that ENMU-R does the same thing. They try very hard to keep the money right here in Roswell and in Chaves County.”
GO bonds approved by Legislature
The New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez approved placing the general obligation bond issues on the ballot during the 2018 legislative session. They also approved which projects could be funded with the bond money.
General obligation bonds, which are voted on by legislators during even years, are paid by levies assessed to all properties statewide that are subject to property taxes.
Because the 2018 bonds would replace previously issued GO bonds that are to be retired, the state property tax levy will remain the same as in 2016 and 2017 at 1.36 mills, according to the New Mexico State Board of Finance.
Grizzle stressed the fact that the bonds will not increase the tax burden and said that a 2010 bond issue that failed did not result in lower property taxes.
If all four bonds pass, property owners in the state would pay $8.91 per $100,000 of property value each year over a 10-year period, according the State Board of Finance. That $8.91 annual levy consists of 58 cents for Bond A, 69 cents for Bond B, 33 cents for Bond C and $7.31 for Bond Issue D.
If approved by voters, the bonds would be issued in January or February 2019, with funding expected to be allocated to the various projects and entities by summer 2019, according to state documents and higher education officials.
Of the four GO bond issues under consideration, Bond A and Bond C do not have any locally earmarked projects. The Bond Issue A for about $10.77 million would fund building projects or equipment acquisitions at 57 senior facilities in the state (including some in Ruidoso and Portales), while Bond C for $6.14 million will go to the New Mexico Public Education Department for the purchase of school buses.
The two bond issues that include funding specified for local organizations are Bond B and Bond D.
School and public libraries in line for funding
The $12.88 million Bond Issue B will fund public library resources, with $306,116 allocated for Chaves County entities.
According to information published by the 2018 GO Bond for Education Committee, the local amount would be broken down as follows: $34,959 for ENMU-R; $10,727 for NMMI; $118,002 for the Roswell Public Library; $13,010 for Dexter Consolidated Schools; $10,821 for Hagerman Municipal Schools; $9,415 for Lake Arthur Schools; $105,913 for the Roswell Independent School District; and $3,270 for Sidney Gutierrez Middle School, a public charter school.
The funds can be used by libraries to purchase shelving, equipment, reading and audiovisual materials, internet resources or electronic databases.
The Roswell Public Library intends to use its money to purchase new computers for staff and the public, to create early literacy learning stations in the children’s area, to update the library’s broadband and to fund a program that pays tribute to local people who have passed away.
“Without this funding, we would not be able to do what we are doing,” said Enid Costley, director of the city’s library. “The GO bonds provide us a boost in what we can do for the community.”
Grizzle added that ENMU-R and NMMI libraries are open to the public, with its resources and materials available for public use.
Major projects planned for higher ed
The vast majority of the local funding from the bonds would go to three building projects for ENMU-R and NMMI.
Bond Issue D will provide up to $136.23 million for higher education, tribal schools and specialty school buildings and campuses statewide.
Locally, it would provide $3 million for the renovation of an automotive and welding building at ENMU-R and $8.25 million for renovations to barrack “sink rooms” or bathrooms and for a student and administrative building at NMMI.
The Automotive and Welding Technology Building on the ENMU-R campus is planned for a major renovation that is intended to upgrade and expand the space and make it function more like a modern auto dealership to enhance student learning, according to Powell and Eric Gomez, the Automotive Technology instructor.
Scott Smart, vice president for Business Affairs, said that ENMU-R might need to contribute its own funding to the project as well.
“The rough estimate, and I emphasize, the rough part of that, puts the project at $4 million,” he told ENMU-R Branch Community College Board members, adding that he thinks the university should invest its own money to have a project that will serve student and instructional needs over the long-term.
The NMMI projects include phase one of the barrack bathroom renovations to repair and update facilities that date as far back as 1915, said Grizzle.
“It is very, very important for the quality of life for cadets,” he said.
He said the $3.5 million of bond funding for the project will be used to pay for architectural design to update about 35 bathrooms on campus and to begin construction on some of them. He said NMMI won’t know until the designs are complete how much the entire renovation will cost, but said additional funding probably would be requested for the 2020 GO bond.
For the first time, Grizzle said, NMMI was approved for two bond projects. The other one is the update of three buildings that are joined together, Hinkle Hall, the John Ross Thomas Hall (JRT Hall) and the Vertrees, Moore and Vlahopoulos Hall (VMV Hall).
“It is basically three buildings hooked together,” Grizzle said. “It is really a multipurpose building. In some ways, it is our student union.”
The buildings, one of which appeared in the movie “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” house a post office, a restaurant, a barbershop, a ballroom, offices, and a bowling alley used for both recreation and physical education classes.
“When you see the rooms, they look very nice, but the building itself is far out of code,” said Grizzle, who said the construction project will involve putting in new heating and air-conditioning, lighting and electrical systems.
He said the total project is expected to cost $10 million, with $5 million in NMMI funds to supplement the $4.75 million in bond funding.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.