Superintendent says mill funding pays for everything from toilet paper to activity buses
AZTEC — Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter says the $1.3 million generated by a 1.886 mill levy pays for everything from toilet paper in school bathrooms to activity buses.
But that 1.886 mill will expire unless registered voters within the Aztec Municipal School District boundaries choose to keep it during the November election.
Carpenter spoke about the importance of the mill funding during a public forum on Sept. 23 at the Aztec Senior-Community Center.
“Most of our mill funding goes into our maintenance departments, it goes into our technology,” Carpenter said. “What I always say, though, is it goes into safety.”
He said the school district does not dwell on the high school shooting that happened on Dec. 7, 2017, however he took a few minutes to talk about how mill funding saved lives that day.
Carpenter held up a handheld radio, which he said was purchased using mill funding.
“This device saved a lot of lives on Dec. 7,” Carpenter said.
The election will cost the school district an estimated $44,000 which will come out of the operational funds provided by the state. Carpenter said that is the same fund that allows the district to pay its staff and utility bills. The February election cost the district $35,000.
Key election dates to remember
Oct. 8: Absentee and early voting will begin. The early voting will begin at 7 a.m. at the San Juan County Clerk's Office, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.
Oct. 19: Early voting begins at alternate sites at 10 a.m. at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, the Bloomfield Multicutural Center, the Shiprock Fire Station and the Newcomb Fire Station.
Nov. 1: Last day to mail in absentee ballots.
Nov. 2: Early voting ends at 6 p.m.
Nov. 5: Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
What is mill funding?
The mill funding comes from property taxes in the Aztec Municipal School District boundaries. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.
Because the funding comes from property tax, approving the 1.886 mills in November will impact how much property owners pay in property tax. If the mill levy does not pass, property tax will decrease.
While the 1.866 mill levy is just replacing an expiring mill levy, there will be a slight increase in residential property tax. Carpenter explained that this is because of what is happening with the oil and natural gas prices. He said it affects each district differently.
He said even if the oil fields are doing well, Aztec could see higher property taxes because Aztec and its surrounding areas are in the natural gas fields of the San Juan Basin.
The school district is one of five entities that receive property tax. The mill rates for most of those entities will be going up.
Didn't Aztec already vote on a mill levy this year?
This is the second time this year that the Aztec school district has asked voters to approve the mill funding. In February, voters were asked to approve a 2 mill levy to replace the expiring 1.866 mill levy. The 2-mill levy would have brought the district up to the same rate it had 7 years ago. Voters rejected the 2-mill levy after receiving ballots in the mail.
What happens if the mill levy does not pass?
Carpenter said if the mill levy does not pass the district will have to use money the state provides for operations to pay for the things normally funded by mill funding.
He said the after-school program will likely be eliminated. The program serves 160 children and costs the district $100,000 a year. He said that program is paid for using money the school district receives from the state, but that money would have to be redirected to cover things currently funded by the mill levy.
In addition, the district would have to make other cuts. This could mean increasing already-large class sizes and providing less money to classrooms. The district may also cut activities, including sports, and purchase less technology.
Three school board positions will also be on the November ballot
The public forum ended with a question and answer session with school board candidates Roger Collins and Laci Phillips. While all six candidates were invited, Collins and Phillips were the only ones who attended.
Collins is the incumbent in District 5 for the Aztec school board. He is running against Linda Reynolds.
Phillips is running unopposed to represent District 4 on the school board.
Throughout the question and answer session, Phillips returned to the message that there is a disconnect between the community and the school – a gap that Collins agreed exists. She highlighted the low turnout at the public forum as an example. Less than two dozen people attended the forum.
“I think people care, but they don’t want to take action and be more productive in our schools and I think that’s where we need to be more vocal with our parents, with our community,” she said.
She returned to the mill levy election.
“It’s a public school,” Phillips said. “Who funds that? We all do. We all need to take responsibility and accountability with our schools.”
Collins said developing an app that ties in with social media may help the school district better communicate with parents and with the community.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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