School renewal takes shape

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By Roger Snodgrass

Nine months away from a likely school bond referendum that has not been formally set, Los Alamos Board of Education President Steve Girrens and retiring Superintendent Jim Anderson sounded like the election plan was all but a go.

Speaking at a Kiwanis Club luncheon Tuesday, Girrens laid out the 20-year program that many civic and community groups will probably see over the next several months.

Coming up on the third cycle of the first-ever school bond program, Girrens said the $14 million that came into the system after 1998 was almost evenly divided between capital improvement (“bricks and mortar”) and maintenance. But the second round in 2006 has tilted 5-to-1 toward maintenance.

“It’s like a ship taking on water with not enough bilge pump to take it out,” Girrens said.

The reality he said is that a new high school would probably cost more than $100 million, using a recent Albuquerque budget as an example.

With limits on how much the county can tax itself, the statutory bonding ceiling would be about $43 million for the GO (General Obligation) bonds that are backed by the taxing power of the municipality.

The reality, Girrens said, is that the county can’t afford the new high school, middle school and elementary school that it needs.

“We have to be smarter,” he said.