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Schools Vote to Create College Tax District

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Northern New Mexico College is significantly closer to creating a community college district with five local school districts.

Three of the five proposed districts — Española, Pojoaque and Chama Valley — unanimously passed the first resolution the College proposed, in which each district would enter negotiations with Northern to have a community college district.

Mesa Vista Consolidated Schools and Jemez Mountain Public Schools are the last two districts that will vote on the proposal.

The proposals would create a community college tax district within Northern New Mexico that would allow them to offer trade classes such as plumbing and welding at a lower cost than the normal tuition rate.

It would also allow the college to ask voters in those districts to approve a 2-mill levy to fund the program, which Northern President Rick Bailey said would include free transportation for high school students taking dual-credit classes in the program.

Pojoaque Valley School Board President Jon Paul Romero said he is very excited for the branch to form, since it offers these trade classes.

“It’s hard in a district our size to have a welding class when you don’t have the population to fill those classes,” Romero said.

However, the College is running out of time to make the community college branch a reality before November elections.

Northern still has to get all five districts to approve a second resolution, in which each board officially agrees to join the community college district. The College faces a July 15 deadline to submit these votes to the County clerk so the 2-mill levy can be on the November ballot.

“We’re racing the clock,” Bailey said at the May 31 Board of Regents meeting.

He said he is hoping to get members from all five boards in a joint meeting on June 26, so they can all vote on the proposal at the same time. He admitted it would be difficult to get enough members to attend the meeting, since many are on summer break and each board is subject to their own Open Meetings Act requirements.

When asked if he is worried about not meeting the deadline, Bailey said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

“This is a huge lift,” he said. “There are a lot of things that need to happen between now and then to make this happen.”

The bill that allowed Northern to form the community college branch was signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham on April 5, which Bailey said did not leave the College much time and is the main reason they are facing a quick deadline.

He said if he cannot get enough board members to attend the joint meeting on June 26, he will try to attend all of their late June meetings or ask them to call a special meeting in order to pass the second resolution.

Mesa Vista was expected to vote on the first resolution Tuesday night. Jemez Mountain will hear a presentation from Bailey on the matter at 6 p.m., June 11 in the Gallina Board Room.

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