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County voters approve school bonds, taxes

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Chaves County Bureau of Elections Chief Cindy Fuller talks about Tuesday’s school elections results with Hagerman Municipal Schools Superintendent Ricky Williams as they and election workers gathered at the Chaves County Administrative Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Chaves County voters have given passing grades Tuesday to the bond and mill levy issues put before them by the Roswell Independent School District and Hagerman Municipal Schools in a special mail-in election that saw about 20 percent participation rates.

In unofficial results announced by the Chaves County Clerk’s Office Tuesday night, the $14 million general obligation (GO) bond issue for Roswell public schools passed 4,311 to 1,822. The 2 mill levy issue passed 3,996 to 2,194. Chaves County had 30,100 registered voters eligible to vote in the RISD special election.

For Hagerman, 209 out of its 1,027 eligible voters turned in their ballots, with 134 voting for its 2 mill levy and 75 against.

Results become official after the canvassing of the elections by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, scheduled to meet 2 p.m. Friday at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

“First of all, I want to give credit to the County Clerk’s office,” said Hagerman Superintendent Ricky Williams. “They have done a wonderful job, great communication in terms of things we needed to do. Also, I would like to tell our community that we certainly appreciate their hard work. It really shows that they care about facilities. They care about the things that are important to us as workers, as students, as community members. It certainly allows us to keep the maintenance part up and then to meet the internal needs of our students as well as the external needs.”

The Hagerman vote extends a 2 mill property tax — also known as a Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) levy — for an additional six years, from 2019 to 2024. The levy requires property owners in the Hagerman district to pay $2 for every $1,000 of taxable value of property. The tax originally began in 1979.

In discussing the mail-in election in November, Williams stressed that the mill levy did not increase taxes, only continued them, and said it was essential money to provide a “safe environment for learning” and allows schools to remain competitive. Funds will be used for facilities upkeep and maintenance, technology and furniture.

The levy raises about $66,027 each year for the district. In addition, because the district receives the levy money, the state provides about $106,604 annually for small capital projects, Williams said in the November interview.

RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy has chosen to wait until after the election canvassing to comment about the results.

In talks and videos prior to Tuesday, McIlroy stressed that voters were being asked to renew existing bond and mill levy obligations rather than approve new taxes.

“Both are critical to renovating and maintaining our schools,” McIlroy said in a video posted on the district’s website. “High-quality school renovations improve safety, security, maintenance and the overall learning environment for our students.”

The GO bond will provide up to $14 million for school construction, with continued renovations of Washington Avenue Elementary School and Mountain View Middle School top priorities for the district, according to McIlroy.

The 2 mill levy, to be assessed from 2019 to 2024, will be used for facility repair and maintenance.

This is the first year that schools have held mail-in special elections coordinated by the Chaves County Clerk’s Office for their bond and mill levy issues. The passage of House Bill 98 in 2018 required the districts to hold special elections or else wait until general elections, which could have caused a gap in funding.

Tatum Municipal Schools also held a special election, but Cindy Fuller, Chaves County Bureau of Elections chief, said that the only person in Chaves County eligible to vote in that election did not turn in a ballot by Tuesday.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.