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HillTalkers weigh in on mil-levy debate

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UNM-LA > Forum and presentation didn’t appear to change opinions

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos High School HillTalkers, the school’s debate team weighed in on whether or not Los Alamos voters should grant the University of New Mexico- Los Alamos more funding through a 2 mil tax levy.

The debate team showed up at a forum and presentation on the subject presented by the League of Women Voters and UNM-LA at one of the school’s lecture halls Thursday night.

Arguing “for” the levy increase were junior Sarah Bouquin and senior Daniel Ahrens. Arguing “against” the levy were juniors Dakota Klasky, and Irene Garrish.

Ahrens opened the debate, saying why the public should step forward and support the levy. Among the points he made was a sharp decline in state funding for UNM-LA that occurred in the last five years, and the fact that UNM and the state legislature has called for communities to fund their own colleges.

“As the responsibility for funding shifts to local communities we need to enact strong policy initiatives to support our local education,” he said.

In response, Garrish quoted a letter from a local resident who said that “Los Alamos is a fairly affluent town, but we have a substantial population of fixed-income taxpayers who simply cannot afford a tax hike,” she quoted.

The debate continued for another 20 minutes, as the audience sat in rapt attention as both sides made valid points for their arguments.

When it was over, residents who came to the debate with a particular viewpoint weren’t necessarily persuaded by either side, but were impressed with the Hill Talkers and their debate skills nonetheless.

“I thought they were great, I was very impressed,” said resident Ed Birnbaum. “I was very surprised by their presentation, in spite of the time they had to present it. Both sides did a great job.”

In the end though, Birnbaum was still coming down on the pro side, citing that Los Alamos’ fixed-income population is a lot different than other fixed-income populations throughout the state.

“I don’t think that I came away with a change in opinion,” Birnbaum said. “The fixed-income population here is probably pretty wealthy compared to most communities, so I don’t think the argument carried much weight.”

The proposed tax levy is $2 for every $1,000 of property value. Ballots already have been mailed out and
the deadline to send ballots back is Sept. 17.