UNM-LA Board mulls 1-mil tax levy

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Higher education: Officials say more revenue is needed to sustain standards

By Whitney Jones

In February 2010, University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Executive Director Cedric Page said after voters rejected a mil levy, the Advisory Board would wait a year or two until the economy turns around, and would again pose the question to voters.

It appears that time has come.

The board mulled over the idea of having another mil levy election during its meeting Monday evening.

Dean of Instruction Kate Massengale cautioned board members that just because the college has been able to pull off some “miracles” that those improvements are not sustainable without some fairly consistent solid income.
Campus Resources Director Lisa Wismer said federal education funding isn’t consistent either stating the board and the public faces a “harsh reality.”

“So all the other revenue streams become extremely important,” she said, adding because UNM-LA lacks an athletic program or a medical school, that revenue streams like tuition need to be maximized so the school can sustain what  progress it has started.

Board Chair Stephen Boerigter said it’s time for the board to stand up and defend a mil levy.

“I believe this is the right thing to do,” Boerigter said. “I believe we the board here — this is part of our leadership — we’re here because we believe that UNM-LA is an asset to the community.”

He said community leaders may be receptive to the levy should the board make an effort to explain the changes and revisions the school has undergone so far.

But board member Linda Hull said the board should also consider the consequences of voters rejecting another mil levy, such as the costs of an election and campaign materials.

“What do we lose?” she asked. “Do we set ourselves back, should we come back for another (mil levy vote)?”
Even so, Boerigter was confident that the levy would pass.

“I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t plan on losing,” he said.

Wismer said one mil levy would produce about $700,000 for the college and should the board decide to pose the question to voters, they would have the opportunity to weigh in come February 2013.

Voters rejected the last attempt at a two-mil levy, by a vote of 3,591 to 2,576 in 2010.

Boerigter said the board will likely discuss the matter in more detail at a special meeting during the summer break.