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UNM-LA officially received permission Tuesday from the university’s Board of Regents to go ahead with its plans to ask the residents of Los Alamos to help shore up the schools ailing financial situation through a 2-mil increase in property taxes in September.
The permission came shortly after a presentation made by UNM-LA Director Cedric Page, a community support group called the Los Alamos Committee for Higher Education and support from the members of the UNM-LA Advisory Board.
A day after, members of LACHE and the UNM-LA Advisory Board met at UNM-LA to discuss what they shared with the Board of Regents Tuesday.
According to LACHE Chair Michael Wismer, declining state aid coupled with rising student enrollment played a key factor in the regency giving UNM-LA permission.
“The main message Cedric communicated was that we were in a dire situation,” Wismer said. “There’s been a 38 percent decline in revenue from the state over five years. Paired with the fact that there’s been a 14 percent increase in enrollment shows that we cannot sustain this trend.”
Wismer also shared a video that was played at the Board of Regents meeting that featured the support of County Council members.
“I believe that UNM-LA is a very important institution into our town and I believe in general that higher education brings a lot to the community and enriches our community. I’m in favor of the special election going forward,” said County Councilor Kristin Henderson in the video. Also speaking in favor of UNM-LA in the video were County Councilors Rick Reiss, Vice Chair David Izraelevitz and Steve Girrens.
What LACHE has opted to do now is put together a fundraising committee as well as find ways to reach out to various sectors of the community through speaking engagements and advertisements.
Resident Morrie Pongratz said one point they need to drive home to residents is how much of an asset the campus is to the community.
“This community has to pull up on every bootstrap it can find, because the silver spoon is slowly slipping out of our mouths,” he said during the discussion. “...Your property value depends on this community staying alive and prosperous. The amount you lose in the increase in property taxes is trivial in the amount your property value will go down if this community loses another thousand people.”
Though he wasn’t a part of the presentation to the UNM Board of Regents Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt wished his counterparts at UNM-LA luck and that he is fully behind the 2 percent levy increase as well.
Schmidt said that UNM-LA is a “collaborative partner with the school district” and noted that there’s been an increase in the number of high school students taking dual credits with the university. He also mentioned how UNM-LA has created new kinds of career and technical classes.
“UNM-LA is our university. This is our chance to have an on-site in-town education center. The better and more strategic initiatives that university provides, the better for us,” Schmidt said.