Canutillo school district superintendent Damon Murphy gave a pep talk to a crowd of about 75 supporters of the district’s bond initiative and Tax Radification Election Saturday along Doniphan Drive in Canutillo Saturday. MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Early voting – May 2-10
Election Day – May 14
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With only two weeks remaining, school districts proposing tax increases are doing everything they can to get the word out before voters to go the polls on May 14.
Officials in the Socorro and Anthony school districts are asking voters to approve the sale of bonds to update and build facilities.
Voters in the Canutillo Independent School District will decide the passage of not only a bond issue but also a Tax Ratification Election increase.
Canutillo voters approved the last bond election in 2006 and voted down tax-rate elections in NEIGHBORHOODS
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2007 and 2009.
Voter approval of the district’s bond issue would cause a tax-rate increase of 16 cents to $1.45 per $100 of property valuation. The passage of the tax-rate increase for maintenance and operations in the district would increase taxes from $1.29 per $100 of home valuation to $1.42.
The owner of a $100,000 home now pays $1,290 annually in district property taxes.The passage of both would mean an increase of $290 annually.
The proposed bond sale would finance about $43.95 million in district projects. The main projects would deal with sewer problems at two schools, meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, upgrade some schools to refrigerated air and build a new East Side campus to meet projected growth.
Officials said 70 percent of the money would go to existing campuses.
District officials said that the tax increase from the bond issue would be filtered in over the course of three years, and that the passage of the Tax Ratification Election would be felt immediately.
Damon Murphy, superintendent of the district, said he has been getting the word out about the elections through multiple community open forums, through neighborhood walks and on the district’s website. He said one of the biggest concerns he has heard in getting the information out is that some people think the TRE will raise salaries, hire administrators and bring added programs, which is not the case.
“One of the hardest things has been convincing the community that the TRE is about solvency and not luxury, and working with the community to help them understand that the bond benefits our entire community not just certain segments of our community,” he said.
He said the tax increase is necessary because the Canutillo district could lose between $2.6 million and $4.8 million through various versions of the state House and Senate budgets. The district has already laid off all 32 of its first-year teachers. Murphy said that without the TRE, the district may have to fire up to 50 more employees and end some student programs.
“The luxury is that we have the opportunity to survive the state cut, so I guess that is a luxury that other districts don’t have right now because they’re not going out for a TRE,” Murphy said. “But it certainly isn’t anything as far as adding to the programs for the district above and beyond the current level.”
Tim Holt, who heads the TRE and bond’s Political Activist Committee, said the committee is doing everything possible to get the word out about how important the bond and TRE are for the district.
He said convincing voters of the importance is challenging because the economy is so bad and it’s difficult to persuade voters to approve a tax increase. He said another challenge is that a school district is the only government in which voters must approve a tax increase.
“If the bond doesn’t pass, it will hurt the facilities,” Holt said. “If the TRE doesn’t pass, that’s more programs and personnel.”
Holt said that district officials have been accused of using layoffs of employees as a scare tactic to pass the TRE, but that the layoffs are really a response to what’s happening in Austin.
“I saw this freight train coming down the tracks in education,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be hit.”
In the Socorro Independent School District, the decision not about adding money to the operating budget but about meeting the demands of rapid growth.
The proposed $297 million bond issue would upgrade some elementary schools’ air-conditioning systems, upgrade science labs, construct three new schools and expand two existing campuses.
If passed, the bond package would increase tax rates from $1.18 to $1.24 per $100 home valuation. Annually, the owner of a $100,000 home would see an increase of $60 from the current rate.
Superintendent Xavier De La Torre of the Socorro Independent School District has taken a different approach in getting out word about the district’s proposed bond sale.
He said he intentionally wanted to wait until two or three weeks before the election to start pushing the bond sale so the information would be fresh. He recently started a process of making individual contact with voters in his district.
“I’m calling all registered voters, about 100 a day for the next couple of weeks,” he said.
The Socorro district has 70,517 registered voters.
De La Torre said that the district is trying to get the bond information out to everyone in the district, but that if he were to target two areas, they would be the El Dorado and Eastlake high school feeder patterns because of the growth in those areas. Another group he is targeting is the district’s employees. “I’ve personally addressed the staff at each of the 43 schools,” he said.
De La Torre said he has not had any significant opposition to the bond sale.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I think it’s been done in a very civil way. It hasn’t been toxic at all.”
Kerry Mildon, treasurer of the bond’s Political Activist Committee, said the committee has only about seven to 10 regular members, but she is also optimistic about the reaction to the bond proposal so far.
“We really haven’t run into any big issues,” she said. “I’ve been talking with people and there’s a good feeling throughout the district.
The Anthony Independent School District is seeking a $5 million bond sale for projects, which include making updates to meet the disabilities act and to repair sidewalks and curbs. About half will go to update student athletic facilities.
Voters’ approval of the bond would increase property taxes by 25 cents per $100 of home valuation. This would increase the tax rate from the current $1.29 per $100 of valuation to $1.54. That means a home valued at $100,000 in the Anthony school district would be assessed $1,540 a year in taxes, or $250 more.
The district’s latest bond issue approved by voters was in 2002 for library updates.
Ron Haugen, superintendent of the Anthony Independent School District, said heating and cooling is one of the main areas the bond money will help with and is something that cannot be ignored.
“We’re not asking for that much,” he said. “We just want to get things working.”
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