Schools are on the ballot on Nov. 2 in the form of General Obligation Bonds. If approved, the bonds would fund school projects in the Moriarty-Edgewood School District and Estancia Municipal Schools.
Bonds and mill levies are issued by government entities to finance public projects, like renovating, building, or purchasing equipment for specific things like public schools and libraries.
GO bonds are basically a promise to pay and the money to pay back that loan comes from taxes.
School districts use the term “mill levy” to refer to payment financing in the form of gross receipts tax. The money is collected through gross receipt taxes which are paid on purchases and other certain types of transactions or property taxes.
A mill is one one-thousandth of a dollar; a one mill levy would be a property tax of one dollar on every thousand dollars of taxable property value.
“Education bonds are voter-approved funds that can only be used for designated projects. Districts collect this money by taxing property owners on the assessed value of their properties,” said Estancia Public Schools Superintendent Cindy Sims. “Districts sell the bond to investors. The local bond is similar to a loan, much like a home equity line, but for the school district.”
“A general obligation, or GO, bond is a type of municipal bond that is backed entirely by the issuers creditworthiness and ability to levy taxes on its residents,” explained Moriarty-Edgewood School District Superintendent Teresa Salazar.
There is one bond on the ballot in Torrance County and Santa Fe County for the Moriarty-Edgewood School District (MESD), while other Torrance County voters will vote on a bond for Estancia Public Schools.
In addition, in Bernalillo County there is a bond on the ballot for Albuquerque Public Schools for certain voters. Only voters within those school districts will see the bonds on their ballots come Election Day.
The Estancia Schools GO Bond would provide up to $4.77 million for projects including making additions to school buildings, furnishing, teacher housing and purchasing computer hardware and software for student use in public school, according to a sample ballot.
Sims said the Estancia School District began planning for how the school would spend the money by creating a “Facility Master Plan,” which is a comprehensive review of district facilities.
From that, the district created a list of projects needed. After holding some community meetings, and reviewing the list the district determined which projects need priority, she said.
Parents, community members, staff, and students voted on the projects, Sims said. The results were then ranked, and the top two results are what became the bond projects, she said.
The main projects for the Estancia School District are renovations to the existing “upper” elementary school, including additional classrooms, which would allow all the kids through grade six to be in the same building.
The “lower” elementary school building will be demolished and “Van Stone” will be repurposed for district and community programs.
In addition, the roof of the high school will be repaired. Other projects on the list include getting an air conditioner system up and running by April 2022.
“Passing the bond will maintain tax levels as they are currently, rolling over the tax if you will, so there is not tax increase,” Sims said. “If the bond failed, tax payers would realize a small savings over the course of the tax year.”
The MESD GO Bond would provide up to $11 million for school district projects including remodeling, school building renovations, furnishing the buildings, and purchasing computer hardware and software for student use in public school.
District superintendent Theresa Salazar said, “MESD is proposing the upgrade to the athletic fields specifically soccer, baseball, and softball. Multiple schools are needing fire alarms and intercom replacement as well as HVAC replacement due to the age of the units.”
She said funds from the GO Bond are budgeted every year to upgrade and replace student technology keeping schools at the forefront of technology integration and engagement.
“Not only is MESD requesting your support on the upcoming GO Bond election but MESD would also appreciate your vote for the local two-mill levy,” Salazar said.
She said property taxpayers will not see an increase in their tax rate since the two-mill levy is a continuation of current property taxes.
According to APS, “If passed, tax rates would not increase, and funding would not go to administrator salaries.”
The GO Bond and Mill Levy would be used to renovate and rebuild aging classrooms, gyms, and cafeterias and various other improvements to facilities.
In addition, a portion of the funding would go to Albuquerque charter schools (both local and state) and to help the city build a new aquatic center serving students in the far Northeast Heights.
According to APS the ballot has a GO Bond that would provide up to $200 million for school district projects and a Mill Levy that would collect about $430 million over six years. Remember, this is a continuation of the current tax rate, not an increase.