Rio Rancho voters can decide on three proposed general obligation bonds for roads, public safety and quality-of-life projects during the upcoming municipal election.
General obligation bonds are government loans repaid through property taxes.
Early voting starts Tuesday, and Election Day is March 1.
City Manager Matt Geisel said approval of all three bonds would keep the property tax rate the same, not causing it to increase because the new bonds would replace those the city paid off. He warned that if the value of a piece of property increased, the tax bill would rise correspondingly, but the tax rate itself would stay the same.
If all three bonds fail, the tax rate would decrease by about $7 per month per $100,000 of taxable value, he said. That means the property tax bill would drop by $168 per year for a $200,000 house.
“But then it puts us behind in doing certain things,” said city spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia.
Geisel said that when voters rejected a 2011 road bond, it pushed work on city streets back five years, but the deterioration of pavement had a multiplier effect that equated to a seven- or eight-year setback.
“If you defer a dollar, it’s more expensive down the road,” he said.
The proposed road bond, the fourth one on the ballot since 2016, would raise $10.61 million to reconstruct:
• Enchanted Hills Boulevard from NM 528 to Paseo del Volcan;
• Northern Boulevard from NM 528 to Rockaway Boulevard;
• 19th Avenue from NM 528 to Golf Course Road;
• Quantum Road from NM 528 to Northern; and
• Spring Drive from Unser Boulevard to Mesa Road.
That’s about 5 1/3 miles of roads. Geisel said the money raised includes contingency funds in case project costs are more than projected.
At the same time, the water and wastewater lines under those streets would be replaced with separate money from the city utilities fund. Geisel said the local soil is corrosive to the lines, meaning they need to be replaced sooner, and he wouldn’t want to tear up a new road to replace pipes.
“We’ve taken a big bite of the apple” in fixing arterial and connector roads with bond money, Geisel said. Now, they’re beginning to move more into residential areas with Spring and 19th.
The proposed public-safety bond, the third put before voters since 2018, would raise $3.6 million for these projects:
• Replace about 20 police vehicles;
• Replace two crime-scene vehicles, one for traffic investigations and another for criminal investigations;
• Replace an armored personnel-carrier vehicle;
• Replace the vehicle that transports equipment to critical incidents;
• Remodel and expand the public bathrooms and replace the camera surveillance system at the police department;
• Replace two fire engines, a 2005 engine with more than 134,000 miles on it and the other a 2006 engine with more than 174,000 miles;
• Replace two ambulances, a 2007 model with more than 100,000 miles on it and a 2013 vehicle with more than 129,000 miles; and
• Replace a 2003 brush-fire truck.
“The Public Safety G.O. Bond has proven essential in keeping the department’s apparatus and facilities up and running,” said Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Acting Chief James Defillippo. “Since 2018, when the bond was first approved by Rio Rancho voters, it has generated $3.8 million for RRFR alone. With that money, the department has replaced outdated fire engines, ladder trucks, brush trucks and completed several important capital-improvement projects.”
For the police department, Garcia said the current armored vehicles have aged out, don’t meet ballistic shielding standards or are re-purposed from the military.
“The RRPD armored vehicle capabilities are not sufficient to meet the needs of the public and the standards for a law enforcement tactical team,” she said, quoting information from Rio Rancho Police Department.
The Lenco Bearcat the bond money would purchase can travel over rough terrain and provide ballistic shielding for officers and the public in tactical situations.
Geisel said the police department once had most of its patrol vehicles close to or over 100,000 miles, when they start to break down more. The public-safety bonds have allowed the city to replace the cars until most are under 100,000 miles.
“The Public Safety G.O. Bond has been an important part of keeping the officers of the Rio Rancho PD safe and well-equipped to do their jobs,” said Police Chief Stewart Steele. “The police units and improvements to the building and infrastructure have increased efficiency and the overall effectiveness of the department. This translates to an increased level of safety for the citizens of Rio Rancho.”
Quality-of-life facilities bond
The first-time quality-of-life facilities bond would raise just more than $1 million for:
• Replacing playground equipment and adding or improving Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility features at Enchanted Hills Park, Veja Baja Park and Rio Vista Park;
• Buying library books, movies, music, periodicals and digital services; and
• Purchasing computers, mobile hotspots and furniture for libraries.
Geisel said the city can add this bond without raising the property tax rate because the tax base has expanded, allowing it to bring in more money at the same rate. Historically, the city’s library money came from the state and county, but those revenue streams are unpredictable and decreasing even as Rio Rancho library use increases.
He also said the bond isn’t specifically for the new library planned for Enchanted Hills, but some of the materials may end up there.