Despite an election mix-up that left a bond question for Northern New Mexico College off the ballot for several dozen voters in Taos County, a property tax in parts of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Taos counties to support new degree offerings at the school will be assessed in 2020.
In November, voters in the Española, Pojoaque, Chama Valley and Jemez Mountain public school districts overwhelmingly approved the new property tax, expected to generate $2.4 million annually for the college.
But the question was mistakenly left off the ballots of 54 Taos County voters in a precinct in the Mesa Vista school district.
Even if all the voters left out of the election would have cast ballots rejecting the bond, the outcome would not have changed. Still, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver did not have an answer on election night about whether a judge would need to decide the tax’s fate in Taos County.
Earlier this month, however, the state Department of Finance and Administration and the Department of Higher Education sent a letter to Taos County Commission Chairman Mark Gallegos saying the bond election results had been certified by the State Canvassing Board, and the 2-mill levy will apply to the residents of Mesa Vista Consolidated School District who were left out.
The tax will cost the average homeowner $2 for each $1,000 of taxable property value, which is one-third of a home’s assessed value. A homeowner with property assessed at $200,000 will pay about $133 a year in taxes.
“This was an incredibly complicated process, but our goal remains to begin new programming in fall 2020,” Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey said.
“I don’t hold any ill will towards anyone involved in the process,” he added. “I think everyone acted in good faith.”
Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez said in an email that the question was left off the ballots in error. “I have already corrected it so that it does not occur in the future,” she said.
Legislation signed into law in the 2019 session — sponsored by state Sens. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, and Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, who died in September — created a branch community college administered by Northern New Mexico College to provide technical and vocational courses to students in surrounding school districts. The bill also allows the college and the school districts to create a shared board of regents with the power to hold bond elections to levy taxes supporting dual-credit programs.
Bailey said the new property tax, which will not expire, will be used to establish associate degree programs in plumbing and pipe fitting, expand the school’s electrician program, and provide transportation from high schools to the college’s campuses in Española and El Rito.
In October, Northern New Mexico College announced a partnership with the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 412 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union 611 to recruit 200 students for the new programs by fall 2020.
“We’re happy everything is sorted out because graduates of these programs will be prepared to enter jobs and careers that are hiring in our local communities,” Bailey said. “That’s how we meet expectations of our community.”