Final day to vote on UNM-LA mil-levy

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Education > Higher learning is in hands of the electorate

By Tris DeRoma

Whether you’re for or against a tax increase to support the University of New Mexico- Los Alamos, your opinion won’t count unless you vote by 7 p.m. today.

After that, it will be too late to make your opinion known regardless of how you stand on a 2-mil tax levy being proposed by UNM-LA.

UNM-LA decided to initiate the tax vote in the face of what school officials have said are the rising costs of education, coupled with sharp declines in state funding over the past five years.

Since the beginning of this year, officials have been out in the community campaigning for the levy, letting residents know about what they say is the valuable role UNM-LA plays in the community and in the education of students in the Los Alamos Public Schools.

Among the things supporters touted were UNM-LA’s dual-credit program, where Los Alamos High School students can take college courses at the school at no cost.

Officials have also noted some of the college’s new degree programs, such as fire science and robotics, may have to shut down, since they were started under grant programs, programs that are due to run out of funding soon.

Proponents of the measure have also tried to do much to dispel the impression they are funded by the University of New Mexico, when in reality they are considered a separate entity and do not receive any funding from the UNM system, even though UNM’s Board of Directors oversees the school and its policies.

Opponents of the levy have stated it’s not every student’s aim to attend the school, preferring instead to attend “better” universities, as one high school student during a mock debate at UNM-LA on the levy said. Opponents to the tax hike said there are just as many of the same programs and schools students can access outside of Los Alamos without having to support them with our taxes, that it would be a waste for residents to vote for the levy.

No matter what your opinion is, County Clerk Sharon Stover said at 7 p.m. today will be the last day residents will have to vote. So far she said, voters have turned in 5,075 ballots, and she is expecting a surge in voting later on today, since it is the last day. A tally of the votes will begin shortly after the voting ends.

So far, she said the voting is slightly down in comparison to the when residents voted to allow the schools to use $20 million in bonds to redesign and rebuild Aspen Elementary School among other school-related repairs and improvements.

“For the school bond, we had over 6,000 votes,” she said. She added however that it’s still early in the day, and that anything could happen.

“Yesterday we had 425 come in, which is high, Stover said.

Besides being received by 7 p.m., voters have to bring in their ballots to the County Clerk’s office, which is located on the second floor of the County Municipal Building on Central Avenue. Stover also advised voters to look over their ballot carefully before putting it in the ballot box. She asked residents to make sure everything is signed, including the section located outside the envelope.

“If it’s not signed, then the vote does not count,” she said.