UNM-LA tables tax hike

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Board: A two-mil increase was to go before voters in January

By Tris DeRoma

A sluggish economy, the uncertainty of the budget situation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a similar proposal from the Los Alamos Public Schools all played a part in the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents decision to squelch a proposal to the taxpayers of Los Alamos.

This coming January, UNM-LA was planning to send out a ballot to Los Alamos residents proposing to raise the tax rate by two mils in an effort to bolster UNM-Los Alamos’ core academic programs.

The UNM-LA Advisory Board earlier cited declining financial support from the state as the main impetus behind the need for a tax hike. If the proposal was approved by voters, then UNM-LA could have received approximately $1.4 million in additional annual revenue. Two mil points would equate to $66.67 for every $200,000 in property value.

But, according to UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the board has decided to hold off on the proposal.

“The regents thought it best to wait until later in the year to see how things pan out with the economy, the general election in November and this fiscal cliff we’re supposed to go off at the first of the year,” Page said.

Page was referring to possible across-the-board federal cuts that would impact LANL’s budget and potentially result in a ripple effect throughout the local and regional economy.

Page thinks they can get by in the interim by using other techniques they’ve used in the past, when times were tough.

“We will continue to develop our grant writing and fundraising,” Page said.

County Council candidates at a recent candidates’ forum at UNM-LA reacted to the university’s decision with interest.

“I know there are a lot of people in town who are opposed to increasing property taxes, but we have some of the lowest property taxes in the nation,” Michael Redondo, a Democratic candidate running for county council said. “So a small increase in order to support UNM-LA doesn’t bother me.”

Redondo also said that he’s aware that Los Alamos also has a large population of seniors and others living on fixed incomes.

“I would be more than inclined to find ways to offset any increases for them in particular,” he said.
Redondo also said he saw the reasons for the delay as well.

“I definitely understand it,” he said. “But it’s not easy to get people to vote for an increase in property taxes in this town.”

Council candidate Steven Girrens thought it was a good idea for the university to table the proposal.

“Does UNM want to be aggressive asking for more taxes in an uncertain time? I think there would be political chits they’d have to expend in order to do that,” Girrens said.