Albuquerque Public Schools is once again asking for funding, but leaders say a newly proposed mill levy and bond package won't increase taxes.
Bond and mill levies are used to finance school projects and maintenance across the state. They offer long-term financing that is paid off as property taxes are received. In February, voters rejected a $900 million mill levy and bond package that would have increased property taxes by an average of 4.7 percent on a special mail-in ballot that received more than 100,000 responses. The proposal reportedly would have funded the construction of 11 new projects and 23 ongoing projects. But opponents of the package said the district was asking for too much money and needed to be more responsible with its spending.
This time around, APS is promising that their new package will improve schools but avoid raising taxes. The newly proposed bond and mill levy is asking to continue the existing levy of $2 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. It is also asking for $100 million in general obligation bonds. This trimmed-down version of the proposal focuses on making basic repairs to facilities—such as fixing leaky roofs, upgrading electrical wiring, installing air conditioning and removing lead from drinking fountains—and making accessibility improvements—like building wheelchair ramps and fully accessible restrooms. Some of the money will be used to purchase musical instruments and art supplies. APS also says it will be improving security at schools across the district.
“We really felt the message would be best received by those who benefit: parents and students,” APS spokesperson Monica Armenta told KRQE. “There are urgent needs in all schools, basic repairs that have to be made.” The average age of schools in the district is reportedly 60 years old, and maintenance costs will continue to rise as the buildings age.
APS commissioned a poll from Research and Polling, Inc. in July that asked 400 voters about the new proposal. Of those surveyed, 62 percent reportedly said they would support continuing a mill levy at the current rate, and 67 percent said they would support a $100 million general obligation bond.
The district says that if voters fail to approve the mill levy and bond package, APS will not have the resources needed to make urgent repairs, increase accessibility, enhance security and provide improved learning materials. An ad shot at Monte Vista Elementary and recently posted on the district's Facebook page features local students and teachers expressing concerns about infrastructural problems they're facing at school. They cite hot classrooms, leaky roofs and wheelchair accessibility issues as reasons to approve the proposal.
The ballot will ask two questions: Should the existing mill levy of $2 for every $1,000 of taxable property value continue? And should $100 million in general obligation bonds be issued to the district?