Santa Fe Public Schools has enjoyed overwhelming support for school bonds in recent years, but the road to approval will be narrower in the upcoming election.
The district has about 600 fewer students than before the pandemic, which could translate to fewer families voting in favor of district infrastructure projects — and others might be concerned that students won’t be able to use new buildings anyway because of potential shutdowns.
It’s the first time a school bond question, along with district school board election questions, will be on the regular municipal ballot for all Santa Feans. And voters might be fatigued following 18 months of the pandemic and a national election, said Kristy Janda Wagner, district deputy superintendent of operations, at a recent Community Review Committee meeting.
In the past, school district questions came to voters in standalone elections. In 2018, legislators passed a local elections act aimed partly at increasing voter turnout, consolidating all nonpartisan voting matters into one ballot distributed in November during odd years.
The change is saving the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, Janda Wagner said.
“A lot of it is staff time, communication and presentation,” she said.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to vote on the district issues, a number that typically has been far lower — in the thousands — in the past. Janda Wagner added that voters in different parts of the county will see different questions and how that will affect the district isn’t known.
She noted that if the questions fail this November, the district can reissue them in a standalone election in February.
In 2017, when the general obligation bond passed, it was estimated to tack on an extra $80 for properties assessed at $300,000, while the mill levy added $150. The county assessor’s office recently offered calculations that show the mill rate would lower from .024051 to .022551 per $1,000 assessed value if no bonds from the ballot were approved this cycle. But just how much the two measures are costing property owners depends on many factors, county Treasurer Jennifer Manzanares said.
“We can’t take anything for granted, so we don’t actually know what an election like this will look like,” district board President Kate Noble said recently.