Opinion: Aztec schools need that mill levy cash to operate
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best: "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
This fall, voters in the Aztec Municipal School District have the chance to show they support our students, our schools and our community by voting for the 1.886 mill levy. This mill levy would replace a 1.886 mill levy that was approved in 2013 and is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
The fact is, schools are an economic driver in our community and a key factor in property values. The website realtor.com found that for every three buyers surveyed, one buyer would settle for a smaller home to access a good school. A survey by the National Association of Realtors among home buyers found that 22 percent of them listed a home's proximity to the school as part of their buying decision, and 29 percent listed school quality as a deciding factor in their decision.
If a community's schools fail, that community can lose population and property values can go down.
Beyond an investment in property values, mill levy money is an investment in our students. It doesn't pay salaries, but does fund the necessities that make schools safe and comfortable, such as security updates, furniture, paint, fencing, irrigation, roofs, and heating and cooling. It also helps keep software and technology up to date, and promotes vital career paths in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
As taxpayers, we pay property taxes for services offered by the state, county, city and college. The portion of taxes we pay for our schools is modest. If your home and property are valued at $150,000, you probably paid about $93.55 in mill levy property taxes for Aztec Schools in 2018. If the 2019 mill levy is approved, you will pay an estimated $94.20 for Aztec Schools this year. That's a 75-cent increase — less than the cost of a soda. If you break it down by month, you are paying about $7.85 to support our students, which is less than the average cost of two fast food meals.
School budgets are already stretched tight, and Aztec Municipal Schools simply does not have the funds from other sources to pay for many necessities.
If the mill levy does not pass, our schools will simply have to make cuts. There will be less money for direct teaching, less money for updating technology, and less money for the basics. They will not be able to afford vital afterschool programs such as tutoring in our elementary schools. Teachers will have less time to devote to each student because class sizes will be larger. There will be fewer athletic programs.
Early and absentee voting are underway at the San Juan County Clerk's office in Aztec through Nov. 2, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.
Our schools are an important part of our community. Please support them, our students and our community's future by voting yes on the 1.886 Aztec Mill Levy. It is the best investment you can make.
For information, you can visit www.voteaztecschools.com or www.aztecschools.com or call 505-334-9474.
Jim Magee is the chair, of the Aztec Municipal Schools 2019 Mill Levy Election Committee and is a former superintendent of the Aztec Municipal Schools.