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Bonds, amendments ahead in state voting

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Roswell higher education and nonprofit leaders thanked area and state voters Tuesday for their support for three general obligation bonds that will fund projects at junior colleges, public and academic libraries, and senior centers.

Decisions for the three bond issues and two constitutional amendments on ballots were not considered settled by press time. But, with 1,318 out of 1,925 precincts partially reporting and 607 precincts fully reporting, a majority of voters were favoring all five questions.

In Chaves County, with all 63 precincts reporting and about a 63.9% turnout, voters had chosen to approve all bond issues. But they split on the constitutional amendments, voting down Amendment 1, 58% to 42%, while favoring Amendment 2, 53% to 47%.

Results are not considered final until they are certified after county canvassing on Nov. 10 and state canvassing on Nov. 24.

Bond issues

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General obligation bond issues A, B and C will bring about $5.77 million to Chaves County higher education institutions, public and school libraries, and senior facilities.

“We had nothing but support every presentation we gave,” said Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, president and superintendent of New Mexico Military Institute.

He and Shawn Powell, president of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, made information talks about the higher education bond issues at various community groups in the area.

Statewide, some opposed the bond questions, including the Republican Party of New Mexico, which stated its opposition on its Facebook page.

“Given New Mexico’s economic crisis and budget troubles at this time, we believe it will not be prudent to burden future generations with more debt load,” an Oct. 6 post said.

The three bond issues total $199.2 million and will be repaid by state property taxes. According to information provided by the New Mexico Finance Administration for the 2020 General Election Voter Guide, the state mill levy would remain at 1.36 mills if all three bonds pass, the same rates as in 2018 and 2019.

Taxpayers would pay $10.99 annually for each $100,000 of property or asset value during a 10-year period. Bond A for senior facilities would account for $1.83. Bond B for public and school libraries would add 54 cents, and Bond C for higher education would be for $8.62.

If final counts show voters passed the bonds, the funds are expected to be available by spring 2021.

Unofficial results from the New Mexico Secretary of State Office Tuesday night showed that 68%, or 487,760, of state voters had approved Bond A. It would provide $33,292,141 for senior facilities and equipment. Those opposing represented 32%, or 232,639.

For Bond B, which provides $9,751,433 for school, tribal and public libraries, 66% were for it, 44% against it. That was 473,406 in favor and 246,416 voting no.

Bond C is for building projects and equipment for higher education, tribal schools and specialty schools. It will provide $156,358,475 for projects at 33 institutions, according to the bond issue website. Sixty-four percent of voters, or 466,192, had voted in favor by press time, with 36%, or 256,198, voting against.

Chaves County projects

Like many higher education institutions in the state, ENMU-R and NMMI would receive funding from both Bond B and Bond C.

ENMU-R would receive $1.8 million to $1.85 million from Bond C. The funds would replace aging and deteriorating exterior lighting throughout the campus and purchase up to 250 security cameras and related monitors and servers. The community college also would receive an estimated $23,973 from Bond B for learning materials or technologies.

For NMMI, $3 million from Bond C would be used for ongoing renovations to the school’s 45 barrack bathrooms, called sink rooms. Another priority for the funding is to repair leaking roofs for three buildings used for instructional purposes. Bond B would provide the Institute an estimated $7,776 for learning materials and technologies.

“In Chaves County, passing Bond C will result in critical infrastructure upgrades to ENMU-Roswell and the New Mexico Military Institute,” said Powell. “These two projects will require construction and renovation efforts that will increase safety on our two campuses and bring jobs into our community. Your support of general obligation Bond C is equally appreciated as it will bring needed funds to our local schools, county and college libraries.”

Grizzle added that the funding will mean local contracting jobs.

“This is my sixth GO bond cycle during my tenure at NMMI,” Grizzle said. “The last five, including this one, the voters of Chaves County have supported the bond program and approved the bonds. This is significant, not only for NMMI and ENMU-R and our ability to continue to upgrade and improve our facilities, but it is equally significant for Chaves County. In all of the major programs we have completed or (are) in progress at NMMI, the general contractor or all of the sub-contractors were local. Passing the GO bond question means jobs for Chaves County. Bond B is equally important. For our public libraries to continue to improve their inventory of periodicals, research documents and their facilities, we rely on the money from these bonds.”

The Chaves County JOY Centers in Midway, Roswell and Lake Arthur would receive $701,395 for parking lot renovations, new kitchen equipment and new vehicles.

“JOY Centers appreciates the support we have received from the community through the years,” said JOY Centers Executive Director Monica Duran. “The bonds have historically passed in support of senior programs. The senior population in Chaves County benefits tremendously.”

Besides the learning centers at NMMI and ENMU-R, the public and academic libraries to benefit from Bond B would include the Roswell Public Library, $87,059; Dexter Consolidated School District libraries, $10,979; Hagerman Municipal School District libraries, $9,802; Lake Arthur Municipal Schools libraries, $10,500; Roswell Independent School District libraries, $75,148; and Sidney Gutierrez Schools libraries, $3,115.

Constitutional amendments

Constitutional Amendment 1 to reconfigure the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission was fervently debated in some areas of the state.

As of press time, the “yes” votes were ahead, 55% to 45%, or 385,860 to 319,962.

The proposed amendment was publicly opposed by three of the five current members of the commission, but supported by some state administration officials. Various political action committees also became involved in the effort to try to persuade voters one way or the other.

Since 1996, members of the commission have been elected to represent five districts across the state. The amendment, effective Jan. 1, 2023, would reduce the number of commissioners to three and make them appointees of the governor. The governor would choose from professionals whose names are forwarded by a Public Regulation Commission Nominating Committee. The governor’s selections would have to be ratified by the New Mexico Senate.

The amendment also would narrow the statutory authority of the commission to the regulation of public utilities. But the Legislature could authorize it to regulate other public service companies.

Opponents said that the amendment removes public accountability and takes power from the voters. Proponents said that people experienced in law, finance, energy industries and other such fields are needed to deal with the complex issues involved in regulation and could help lead the commission from a past that sometimes included criminal allegations against commissioners.

Constitutional Amendment 2 authorizes the New Mexico Legislature to stagger or align the tenures for non-statewide elected offices if it felt that was needed to provide better administration of offices or to prevent having too many races determined in any one given election.

The amendment also clarifies that elected officials will take office on Jan. 1 following their election.

The amendment was put on the ballot after a 2019 “election overhaul” bill led to a lawsuit by district attorneys because it had extended the terms of office for them by two years so that their elections would occur during a gubernatorial election. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that terms of office changes could only occur by constitutional amendment.

As of press time, 64% of statewide voters, or 443,925, favored the amendment, while 36% or 251,999 opposed it.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.