Higher Education General Obligation Bond C, on the ballot in the current election, would fund about 45 repair, renovation and technology improvement projects at 33 higher education campuses across the state.
It won’t raise property taxes, but continue an existing tax.
Steve Gamble, co-chairman of the 2020 GO Bond for Higher Education Campaign, said if the bond failed, the decrease on property tax bills would be small, probably unnoticeable. The exact decrease would vary by county.
“But perhaps more importantly, Bond C would provide funds to invest in our future,” said New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Olivia Padilla-Jackson during a presentation to the Rio Rancho Governing Body in September.
If voters approve the bond, it would generate $155 million for mostly repairs and renovations of facilities and infrastructure at universities, colleges, tribal schools and other special schools across New Mexico.
“We call this a stewardship bond because it’s taking care of what we have, not getting anything new,” Gamble said.
The exception is the largest allotment, $30 million to build a new 84,500-square-foot University of New Mexico Nursing and Population Health Building to replace the old facilities housing those programs. Gamble said it would allow UNM to double the number of nurses it trains at its main campus.
“In a time when we’ve really got a shortage of nurses, and all health-care workers, really, we think that’s a really good use for $30 million,” he said.
The bond, if passed, would also provide Central New Mexico Community College with $13 million to fix and improve student services facilities at multiple CNM campuses and demolish the deteriorating student services center on its main campus in Albuquerque, according to the CNM website. Padilla-Jackson said the work would reduce square footage and allow students services to be more flexible, “serving students where and when they need it.”
CNM spokesman Brad Moore said technology improvements would allow better student services at all campuses, including the one in Rio Rancho’s City Center. No money is going directly to that campus, however.
The UNM website lists no bond projects at the Health Sciences Center Rio Rancho campus.
Gamble said economists estimate that, statewide, passage of the bond would create 1,500 jobs related to design and construction during work on the projects. Padilla-Jackson said the work would boost business activity and contribute to gross receipts tax income.
If the bond fails, Gamble said, community colleges might be able to make up the funds with their mill levies, but the state government doesn’t provide money for building maintenance.
Some projects could wait, but a few are urgent, he said. Failure of the bond would mean the institutions with pressing needs would have to raise tuition to cover the costs.
“So we’d be passing it along to our students; it’s not fair,” Gamble said.
More information about Bond C can be found at the 2020 GO Bond for Higher Education Campaign site, bondc4nm.com, and, for information specific to UNM projects, bonds.unm.edu/general-obligation-bonds/2020/index.html.