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School bond passes 4,283 to 1,784

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Los Alamos tax payers give schools permission to spend bond money

By Tris DeRoma

The taxpayers of Los Alamos have voted to let the Los Alamos Public School System spend another $20 million in general obligation bonds, according to the County Clerk's Office.

The unofficial ballot count was 4,283 to 1,784. The money will allow continued construction and renovation to go on at the Los Alamos Middle School as well as allow planned renovations and construction take place at Aspen Elementary over the next five years. Other priorities will be design plans for new music and choral facilities at Los Alamos High School, completing the Los Alamos Middle School courtyard, as well as design plans for the new Middle School gym.

At the beginning of January, 13,826 ballots went out to the public and only 6,186 came back, but that was enough to overcome the apathy. Of the 6,186, ballots, 6,067 were validated as of Tuesday night.

Many residents today braving the cold to shop at Smith’s had much to say about the bond vote.

“I voted ‘yes,’” resident John Roberts said. “I voted ‘yes’ because it was going to be spent on school facilities.”

Others didn’t seem to be aware they got a ballot in the mail, while others said they did but they never bothered to vote.

There were residents who were just as passionate about expressing alternative views as well.

“I voted ‘no,’” one resident said. “They’re spending too much money on things they don’t need. They don’t need to be tearing down the middle school.”

Despite suffering from a nasty cold, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt was on hand at the County Clerk’s Office, where the votes were being tallied.

When the votes came in, he was at once glad and relieved to see that Los Alamos residents have again given the schools their vote of confidence in the district’s ongoing quest to update and redesign the school system’s aging infrastructure.

“I think the vote was a nice, strong endorsement,” Schmidt remarked shortly after County Clerk Sharon Stover told him the votes. “Now we have work to do, and it’s going to be good work.” 

Schmidt said that though this is just another step in a 20 year plan to modernize the school system, he’s going to do as much as he can with this $20 million.

“This is another important step forward in our 20-year plan,” he said. “We finished the high school, we’re going to be finishing the middle school soon then we’re going to jump right into Aspen. It just continues that belief the district can reinvent itself over a 20-year span of time.”

While Aspen elementary will be getting $12 million of the bond funds for its renovation, Schmidt also remarked that this bond has also been earmarked for a wide variety of other projects as well. There is even funding for Chamisa School which coincidentally suffered massive damage to its roof in the past few days due to an unexpected thaw and freezing cycle.

“Another nice thing about this bond is how widely the money is distributed throughout the school district,” Schmidt said. “One of those things is the roof at Chamisa Elementary School. It’s interesting that on a day that we’re having trouble with the Chamisa roof we get a bond passed to fix this.”

School Board President Kevin Honnell also weighed in on Tuesday’s vote, saying “Los Alamos has been a community that was founded upon and has consistently valued the lifelong importance of top-notch, quality education.”

Honnell specifically thanked the public for supporting the various construction projects the bond money has supported since 2009, when the first bond issuance to help rebuild the schools was approved by the public. In that bond issuance, the high school was renovated and construction was begun on the middle school.

“We are tremendously gratified that our community is pleased with the rebuilding progress at the high school and middle school to the point of being willing to entrust us with additional hard-earned dollars to continue the rebuilding at Aspen and across the district,” Honnell said.  “We promise to put those dollars to good use for the benefit of your children, their teachers, and the entire community.”

Outgoing school board member Melanie McKinley remarked that not only did residents vote for the bond, they did so by a strong majority. “It shows that Los Alamos supports what we’re doing for our schools by such a huge margin,” said McKinley. “I think it shows that they believe we’ve spent the money well. I’m so excited to see what the district is going to do with the bond money in the future. It’s going to be amazing.”