Educational facilities, CNM and APS would receive millions with voter approval
Albuquerque residents have several bonds on their ballots this election related to education. Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque Public Schools, and city libraries and museums all stand to receive millions in public funding for capital projects. The largest of the three, which will appear on Bernalillo and Sandoval County ballots, is for CNM, which would receive $80 million for campus improvements.
CNM calls the projects the bond will fund “critical.” Those include safety improvements, a new auto trades facility on the Rio Rancho Public Schools’ Career-Technical Education campus, and a film and digital media center at the Albuquerque Rail Yards.
Marvin Martinez, executive director of the college’s Physical Plant Department, highlighted a project to build a permanent, consolidated home for the FUSE Makerspace, which will house equipment for woodworking, steel manufacturing, 3D printing, as well as water jet and laser cutting.
“As a makerspace, it’s also an opportunity for students that have an entrepreneurial mindset to start thinking about how to build a business,” he said. “And they have coaching and all that kind of stuff to help them take those steps forward.”
The space, which will be open to the public, will be located on CNM’s main campus. Spokesperson Jakob Schiller said the college will likely locate the student and community resource along the University Boulevard corridor to be “as publicly-facing as possible.”
Martinez said the other improvements will benefit all district residents as well, whether or not they attend CNM or have a family member enrolled.
“Everybody in the community has had some kind of dealing with something that came out of CNM that has made their lives a little more positive,” he said. “We’re a community college and we serve the community.”
Martinez said the local economy could also benefit from the CNM improvements, since trade industries it trains students for are understaffed.
“It’s important that we get the students ready as quickly as possible to fill those gaps,” he said.
If the bond is voted down, Martinez said the years-long process of approving, designing and executing projects will get pushed down the road, and it’s needed now.
“The longer it takes, the harder it’s going to be,“ he said. “And the more prices are going to go up around New Mexico to get work done.”
The CNM bond, if approved, will not increase tax rates. It’ll be spent down over about four years, according to Martinez, with the first half of the money available starting next summer.
The Albuquerque Municipal Public School Capital Improvement Tax question is a continuation of the tax dollars APS is already receiving. The Public School Mill Levy approved in 2019 is set to expire next year, and voters are being asked whether to reauthorize it from 2025-2030.
The money comes from a property tax of $2 for every $1,000 of net taxable value on residential, non-residential and oil and gas properties within the APS district. Since the bond question would simply extend the tax, approving it won’t change rates for property owners.
According to the APS website, the mill levy is expected to generate over $264 million over the 6-year period starting in tax year 2025 and will benefit 194 schools.
The district plans to spend the funds on building maintenance, classroom and safety equipment, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and conservation upgrades.
City libraries, museums and cultural facilities bond
Albuquerque voters will also weigh in on whether to make nearly $16 million in general obligation bonds available for community education facilities in the city like museums, libraries and cultural facilities.
The largest allocation of those funds is for a new Unser racing museum honoring the legacy of the local family that are giants in Indianapolis 500 car racing. A version of the museum that was a public/private partnership with the state closed its doors in May, announcing a merger with the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed on its website. Voters this year are asked to weigh whether the city should issue $4 million of its bonds to build a new museum.
Councilor Klarissa Peña told the Albuquerque Journal in March that she and others “want to keep the collection in New Mexico. We're trying to accomplish that.”
Other museum projects would include $2.5 million to design an education center for the Albuquerque Museum, $1 million for improvements to the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, and another $1.4 million for storage and loading docks at both facilities. $1 million would also be issued to the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque for a Cradle Through Career STEAM Learning Campus and Early Childhood Center.
Libraries would pull down capital project funds if voters OK the bond as well, with $3.2 million for materials and $1 million for repairs and renovations. An additional $255,000 would go to public libraries in Council Districts 1, 3 and 8.
The city bonds are paid for by property taxes, though approval of this year’s bonds won’t increase the tax rate. According to the city, the amount is determined by tax payments, the 13-year bond repayment schedule, the tax collection rate and tax base growth.
Election day is Nov. 7. Early voting is already underway.
Support for this coverage comes in part from the Thornburg Foundation.