This has been ongoing for several years, and this current vote is a mere continuance of the levy that has been in place.
Taos County voters have just a few more days to decide if they want to renew the two-mill levy vote that funds school maintenance and equipment. Time is running out to mail in ballots, which are due at the Taos County Clerk's office by Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.
Ballots were mailed out Jan. 8 for a special election to decide whether or not to continue SB 9 mill levy funds for schools in the county. The mill levy has been ongoing for the past six years and voters must now decide if that tax continues or if it is to die out. The levy, which is collected through property taxes, adds a chunk of funding to annual school budgets to help cover the costs of ongoing maintenance, supplies, technical equipment and facility upgrades.
'There are things that break on a daily basis and we need to get them repaired as soon as possible," said Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Lillian Torrez.
A mill is $1 on every $1,000 of the taxable value of a property. So for a property valued at $300,000, the owner pays $600 total in taxes due to this two mill levy. (The mill levy rate always remains the same; when the value of the property increases, so does the amount paid through the tax.) This has been ongoing for several years, and this current vote is a mere continuance of the levy that has been in place. No changes will occur to property taxes if the levy is passed.
For this funding, Taos Municipal Schools normally receives around $1 million whereas the Taos County charters typically share about $850,000 for improvements.
Schools in the area will be using the money for specific expenditures that will include updates to buildings, grounds, purchases of activity vehicles, educational technology improvements and other projects.
"This is just something more for us to give the kids for a better education," said Taos Integrated Schools of the Arts Director Rich Greywolf.
Charter schools also are included on the funds and must write in to their area district to request to be part of the fund distribution. Charters must provide a list of what they plan to use the monies for, should they receive it.
TISA will be looking at purchasing an activities vehicle for field trips as well as a installing a fence around their property if the funds are passed by voters. Also, Greywolf said the funds would help finish paying for an on-site storage for outdated equipment the schools are obligated to keep for a certain time. Without the funds, Greywolf said the improvements would have to be out of pocket and would take away from other amenities the students need.
Other wish lists within the district include a new outdoor area for Taos Charter School, new technology licenses for Taos International School and roof repairs throughout the district.
"Our roofs are our biggest issue right now," Torrez said. "They need a lot of repairs."
Schools rely on SB 9 funds for a large spectrum of upkeep and maintenance as well as needed updates to facilities. By state mandate, the funds must be spent on a specified list of projects or equipment and cannot be spent outside them such as salaries or classroom supplies.
"Without these funds the money would come out of operational funds and that would affect money going into the classroom," said Peñasco Superintendent Marvin MacAuley. "We are required by statute to keep our facilities in good working order. If the levy does not pass there is a chance that property taxes will increase by state action and we will not receive the state match. Passage of this levy is critical."
Taos County schools will receive the money from within the community if the mill levy passes in their district.
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