Local school officials say mill funding is crucial to operations
Voters asked to approve levies in 3 county districts
FARMINGTON — Bloomfield Municipal School District Superintendent Kim Mizell says recent cold weather led to leaking roofs in some of the district’s buildings.
The school district relied on funding from mill levies that have been approved by voters to fix those leaking roofs.
Now, people who live within Bloomfield school district boundaries are being asked to reauthorize a 2-mill levy that helps pay for maintenance and technology.
Bloomfield is one of three local school districts that had ballots mailed out to voters this week asking them to approve or reject a 2-mill levy. The election is unlike previous elections. There will not be any polling locations. Instead, people who live in the three school districts will need to mail the ballots back to the county clerk by Feb. 5. All ballots must be received by the clerk by 7 p.m. Feb. 5.
For Bloomfield and the Central Consolidated School District, the 2-mill levy is replacing an existing 2-mill levy and will likely not impact property tax rates.
In the Aztec Municipal School District, the 2-mill levy will replace a 1.87-mill levy. Aztec traditionally has had a 2-mill levy, but the mill levy failed to pass in 2013. That led to a second election, during which a 1.87-mill levy passed.
According to numbers provided by Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter, the increased mill levy could raise property taxes by $3.87 annually for a house valued at $90,000 and $6.45 for a house valued at $150,000.
At Aztec High School, the mill funding was recently used to buy furniture and laptops for a computers-on-wheels lab, where students can check out laptops and rearrange tables to do school work, according to assistant principal Bryan Sanders. It was also used to purchase new cheer mats and to work on the high jump pit on the athletic field.
Mill funding also has been used to buy equipment for the welding, shop and band classes, according to Carpenter.
While it will raise property taxes if adopted, Carpenter said the mill levy is essential for Aztec schools. He said the district has low per-pupil funding and relies on mill levies. He said without mill funding, it will be very hard for the district to operate.
“We would not be able to operate at the same level,” he said.
He stressed that the mill levy does not help pay salaries.
Mizell said the mill levies are crucial to the operations of the Bloomfield district. She said the school district has reached its bonding capacity and cannot take out any additional bonds, so it relies heavily on mill levies.
“This is the only money we have to maintain our facilities,” she said.
The Central Consolidated School District operates 17 schools, including buildings that have been in operation since the 1950s.
Candice Thompson, director of operations for the district, said the money raised from the mill levy pays for everyday items such as light bulbs, filters and paint.
It also helps the district with preventative maintenance, plumbing, repair and replacement of heating and cooling systems, the upkeep of athletic fields and gymnasiums, and carpet replacement.
In addition to supporting the operation and maintenance of school facilities, the funding helps when unforeseen circumstances occur, such as when the boilers failed at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School in November.
"We needed to do an emergency boiler replacement, and that's what this money helped to accomplish," Thompson said.
"Our goal is always to be good stewards of how we use these tax dollars. We appreciate our tax base supporting this school district for so many years," she added.
D'rese Sutherland, a finance consultant for CCSD, said the current 2-mill levy has been in place for several years, and it can generate up to $3 million annually for the district.
She added the money is used only for facilities maintenance and not for administrative purposes or employee salaries.
"CCSD is asking the voters to vote," Sutherland said.
Reporter Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this report.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.