Voters have some difficult decisions to make Nov. 5 when it comes to how much they’d like to pay in property taxes and for what. The Española and Mesa Vista school districts both seek to renew a 2 mill levy tax. If passed, each district’s tax rates would remain unchanged in regard to this tax, since each district is asking for a continuance, neither is a new tax.

    Rio Arriba County is asking for three 2 mill levy questions to be approved by voters. Each is attached to some specific projects. If passed these three 2-mill levies would raise property taxes.

    However this week we will explain and encourage voters to approve Northern New Mexico College’s 2-mill levy issue to create trades programs at El Rito and Española campuses.

    Northern administrators moved mountains in the past six months to:

    • change state law to establish Northern as a taxing entity;

    • create a tax district;

    • lobby all of the school districts within the taxing district to agree to be tax district members;

    • procure the votes from the taxing district members to ask for a 2 mill levy;

    • get a 2 mill levy question on the ballot.

    No one but Northern President Rick Bailey could have performed such a feat. He put a lot of time and energy into this getting on the ballot. His presence is key in this mill levy question.

    This would be a new tax and would raise property taxes, but it will prove to be money not only well spent, but money that exponentially will better Rio Arriba County and its citizens’ lives.

    The 2 mill levy would generate about $2.4 million annually for the College. Most of that will be spent in El Rito accomplishing several things.

    First, the campus is over 110 years old. Most of the buildings were retrofitted with electricity when it became available in the 1940s and ‘50s. At that time, there were no computers, internet, toasters, ovens, microwaves, refrigerators and any other electric device that’s come along in the past 50 years to make life easier. In short the buildings need to be rewired and/or upgraded.

    Think about septic tank systems. They’re delicate, require maintenance and trees love them. Now think about the lines that lead to septic tanks. They’re old, unstable and made of subpar materials.

    Most plumbing in El Rito is original. This includes water lines feeding the buildings.

    The water tank, and its supplying pump and well, which serve the campus, need work. The well probably should be redeveloped.

    Roofs fail. When they do, water trickles down into those magnificent adobe walls and they turn to powder. Almost all the roofs need work, some walls need fortifying.

    Dorm rooms and kitchen areas must meet many state and federal codes. Americans with Disabilities Act standards have changed immensely since most of the original buildings were updated. Any contractor will tell you once you start changing the original building you get to a point where you must modify to meet current standards of all kinds.

    Outside of buildings, there are computer needs, kitchen needs and Bailey insists the programs be affordable for everyone who wants to take pipefitting or electrical courses. He also insists people be able to go to school even if they don’t have a car so he’s planning a transportation service also. Tuition will be low and very affordable.

    What will Bailey and his staff give us? We will get educated young people and probably some not-so-young who seek a new career. They have jobs waiting for them at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with more training and opportunity for advancement.

    They’re going to stay here in the Valley, spend their money, raise a family and pass on those learning traits. Hopefully, they’ll become voters and run for a local office one day.

    But no one is beholden to the Lab. These are great mobile jobs. Any graduate of one of the programs could move anywhere or start their own company right here and even hire more people.

    These people will have not only learned a trade, but learned how to learn and will do that the rest of their lives. That’s what makes a good citizen and we desperately need those here.

    So now you’re at the check out stand. What’s this going to cost you? Look at your property tax bill or assessment. On the right side, middle, you’ll see Full Value and Taxable Value. Take the Taxable Value, knock off the last three digit and multiply that by 2. That’s how much your tax will increase per year.

    A house valued at $150,000 has a taxable value of $50,000. So 50 times 2 (mills) equals $100 a year.

    Over the next few years a lot of work needs to be done. Work of all kinds. People will need to staff the El Rito campus. This is the only economic engine anyone has come up with in Rio Arriba County that will bring jobs to the area. This is a good use of your money, which is likely to produce much more value in upcoming years.

    Vote yes on Northern’s 2-mill levy question.

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