The Rio Arriba Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution finalizing the language and dollar amounts for three bond questions voters will decide whether or not to approve in the upcoming Nov. 5 General Election.
The resolution replaced the one approved at the June meeting. The previous resolution included a question regarding the construction of a wastewater treatment facility, did not list the roads to be repaired or built with bond money and gave different dollar amounts for each question.
The new resolution includes three bond questions, instead of four, totaling $30 million, versus $29 million in the original resolution.
“It’s reality that if we want nice things in this County, we have to pass the taxes to pay for it,” County Manager Tomas Campos said at the July 30 County Commission meeting.
The new resolution includes $12 million for planning, designing, constructing and equipping a skilled nursing facility.
The facility would fill the void left by last year’s closure of Española Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation.
“Another positive thing that this nursing home being funded via the mill levy is it leaves the Commission in complete control of the quality of the center,” Campos said. “Yes, the Española nursing home was essential, but sometimes you’d get a complaint (and) that the Commission couldn’t do anything about it. In this case, given it would be a County-owned facility, we pick the standard that it’s run at.”
Voters will also have to decide if they want to pass $12 million in bonds to repair and build 46 roads throughout the County.
The 46 roads include 15 roads in District 1, represented by Commissioner Leo Jaramillo, nine roads in District 2, represented by Commissioner James J. Martinez, and 22 roads in District 3, represented by Commissioner Danny Garcia.
The money would help pay for just under 182 miles of new roads or repairs to existing ones.
Of that, about 16 miles are in Jaramillo’s district and include County Roads 1, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 41, 42A, 43, 47, 55, 57, 130, 130A and 138.
About 23 miles are located in Martinez’ district and include County Roads 69, 77, 78, 79, 81, 93A, 101, 103 and 240.
The overwhelming majority of roads to be repaired or built are in Garcia’s district, at about 143 miles.
These include County Roads 142, 168, 194, 280, 297, 319, 324, 326, 327, 328, 342, 352, 356, 357, 362, 370, 379, 402, 405, 425, 426 and 443.
The 2018 County road inventory states 7 percent of all County roads are located in District 1, 8 percent of all County roads are located in District 2 and 85 percent are located in District 3.
County Economic Development Director Christopher Madrid said there are too many roads needing to be repaired or paved for them all to be included in the bond question.
“We have so many roads that we can’t include them all,” he said. “The idea is if we didn’t cover a road in this bond election, we can go out for Capital Outlay and other sources to fill in the gaps.”
The final bond question is for $6 million to go toward the design, construction and acquisition of athletic facilities at the Arriba Empowerment Center, which is the former site of Cariños de Los Niños Charter School. The County purchased the building last July for $60,000.
The resolution states the money will be used for the gymnasium and other indoor and outdoor exercise facilities.
“It’s an old gym,” Madrid said about the existing space. “The third question here is requesting funds to upgrade that athletic facility, to get bathrooms in there, to get additional equipment in there and to have a convention type, another alternative place to have conventions, at that facility.”
While the passage of the bonds would mean new facilities and fresh roads, they will raise people’s property tax if passed.
The three commissioners said they plan to hold townhall meetings across the County to educate people about the bond election and answer any questions.
County Assessor Levi Valdez said if all the bonds on the November ballot pass, it adds up to six mills on people’s tax bill. A mill is equal to $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
These six mills are a combination of existing Española Valley School District bonds, which are up for renewal in November, the mill levy for the creation of the new community college district and the bonds proposed by the County.
Valdez said in a high-demand area like La Mesilla, where home values range from $200,000 to $500,000, people can see an increase in their taxes anywhere from $500 to $600 per year.
If someone is making $13 or $14 an hour and barely able to make property payments, the increase could really impact them, he said.
“Just be aware you need to explain that in your town hall meetings,” Valdez said.
County Financial Advisor Leo Valdez, who works for Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co., said the mill levy will not work exactly as Levi Valdez described.
When a government body, such as a city or county, passes a bond, it must sell the bond to an investor in order to borrow the money.
“Legally, you can’t issue them all unless you have the projects lined and ready to do the work,” Leo Valdez said. “Let’s say the first year you have $10 (million of bonds sold) and the next year $5 (million of bonds sold) and so forth, you know, that tax impact is not going to happen in 2020.”
Tax payers will see an impact on ther bill the year following when the bond is sold, he said.
Each bond last for 20 years, he said.
This means the mill levy rate will change as bonds are sold and paid back over the 20-year life of each bond.
Levi Valdez said he can come up with averages for how much a tax bill will go up in an area so the figures can be given to people who go to the town hall meetings.
Leo Valdez said there are also other specific rules for how the bond money can be used.
For example, the County government will not be able to use the bond money to pay employees to do the work, he said.
Campos said, when it comes to road construction and repair, the County will have to hire contractors to do the work instead of County employees doing it.
In response to Levi Valdez’ concerns, Madrid said the bond is a “highly-progressive tax” that will likely not impact a person making $14 an hour.
“Chances are that individual is renting someplace, which means they’re going to get the benefit without having to be subject to any mill levy,” he said. “Those of us that are fortunate to have homes, we’re the ones that pay the tax.”