LAS CRUCES – In the 2021 local election, Las Cruces voters will note two questions about the Las Cruces Public Schools district.
The first is entitled “School Loan for General Obligations” and the second is “Tax on Public Schools Capital Improvement Tax”. None of these items are new on the ballot. Both want to be re-authorized; If approved, residents’ property taxes will remain at their current levels, but allow further improvements to be made to schools in the area.
Election reporting 2021:Early voting begins in Doña Ana County. That is why some voters showed up.
Ed Ellison, LCPS’s chief financial officer, explained the two points to educate voters about what the two points mean and how they will affect the school district.
General obligation school loan
The General Obligation School Bond question asked voters if LCPS should be empowered to issue bonds totaling up to $ 50 million to allow the county to renovate school buildings. These renovations could include building new school buildings, expanding existing buildings, equipping schools, buying or upgrading school grounds, and buying technology for students.
Ellison stated that the General Obligation School Bond is mostly used for major renovations, and while $ 50 million may seem like a lot, the costs add up quickly for a school district with 24,000 students.
“I think our facility master plan has identified approximately $ 450 million worth of updates that we need for our facilities and our premises,” said Ellison. “Not everything is critical, so we try to prioritize.”
General compulsory schooling applies for four years. Ellison said the district doesn’t immediately issue all bonds at once; They usually spread the $ 50 million pretty evenly over the four years, unless they have a big project to plan for.
When the General Obligation School Bond was last elected in 2018, LCPS also asked for $ 50 million. Ellison said it was the same bond used on different projects. Some years they may need more or less bonds than others.
Investors bid on the bonds when the district issues them. Ellison said LCPS has a fairly solid group of investors who buy their bonds regularly and have not gotten into a situation where they weren’t all issued.
Capital improvement tax for public schools
On the flip side, the public school capital improvement tax has been a long-time staple of Las Cruces.
The ballot asks voters if they want to continue to allow property tax of $ 2 per $ 1,000 net taxable assets, which is what taxpayers have paid since 2016 when it was last on the ballot.
The capital improvement tax for public schools is re-approved every six years.
“Our goal is structured so that we don’t raise taxes,” said Ellison.
The district’s property taxes are used to pay the interest on capital on the bonds it issues, for renovations, maintenance, and a host of other resources.
“Investors will buy these bonds and then we will get the money from them to run our capital projects,” said Ellison. “Then taxpayers’ money is used to pay the principal interest on those bonds over 16 years … We can only be indebted up to 6 percent of the estimated value within the geographic boundaries of the school district.”
Ellison said the district is well below that allocated percentage, which is one reason LCPS hasn’t asked for a property tax hike this year.
“If we pay off the debt, we can get into more debt and somehow keep it flat,” Ellison said. “We’re trying to keep the current rate going by maintaining this cycle of debt settlement and debt increase.”
The current loan amount and the property tax amount offset each other. If the property tax were to be lowered, then the borrowings would in turn fall – and there would be fewer funds left for the maintenance and improvement of the school.
What happens if these don’t exist?
Since the two points complement each other, Ellison said that if one or both of them fail, everyone makes a big impact on the district.
“We wouldn’t have the money to maintain our facilities or build extra classrooms, add new play equipment, the multi-purpose streets we build on schools, the roofs and the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning),” Ellison said of that Not overriding the school bond of the general obligation. “That would take away musical instruments, band uniforms, school furniture, and it would just be the trickle effect. It’s a domino effect. We’d need that money to do all the other things we didn’t have money to do.
“Then, if they failed the capital improvements, our facilities would almost completely grind to a halt.”
Ellison explained that these two elements make up a large part of the essential functions of the district.
“It’s really in the best interests of the community – in the best interests of the voters,” Ellison said. “We are working extremely hard not to increase property taxes. They just vote to keep them the same. So it’s nothing new. It just sticks with what we are currently doing.”
The Las Cruces early voting began on October 5th. Find out in our reporting how you can register for the vote and find out about candidates.
Get to know the LCPS school board candidates 2021:
Miranda Cyr, a member of the Report for America Corps, can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.