Voters reject proposed UNM-LA 2-mil levy

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Vote: 2,662 in favor to 2,908 opposed

By Tris DeRoma

The crowd in the lobby of the Los Alamos Municipal building was guarded, as members of the UNM-LA Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Committee For Higher Education waited anxiously to see if the residents of Los Alamos voted for a 2-mil increase in their taxes to help support the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos campus.

The polls closed at 7 p.m., and County Clerk Sharon Stover had the results by 7:30 p.m.

It was not to be. Though the margin was close, with 47.49 percent of those who voted supported the measure, and 52.21 percent voted against it. The unofficial tally is 2,662 for and 2,908 against.

UNM-LA Business Director Lisa Wismer, who was one of many heavily involved in the “Vote Yes” campaign, offered words of consolation.

“I’d like to thank you for showing your support, appreciation and support you showed UNM-LA,” she told the crowd. “We all have a passion for education, and we wanted to convince the community to invest in the future, as far as it relates to UNM-LA, and it didn’t come out the way we hoped.”

UNM-LA had a lot riding on the vote. Recent degree programs started by UNM-LA, including fire science and robotics were supported by $3 million in grants, many of which are due to run out soon and are not renewable.

If the levy passed, it would have raised property taxes by 2 percent, generating around $1.4 to $1.5 million a year for the school. To put it in perspective, a $300,000 home with a taxable value of $100,000 would have the owner paying $66.67 more in taxes a year.

After the vote, Wismer was stoic about the school's future.

“I think the campus staff will have to take a serious look at the opportunities we can sustain moving forward,” she said. “The ones that are funded by grants are greatly at risk, and we don't have a plan, but we are going to have to look at these resources and make wise, strategic decisions about the resources we have.”

Wismer's husband and UNM-LA Advisory Board member Mike Wismerl told the crowd to “hold your heads high” and be proud that they ran an honest campaign.

“I don't know what else we could have done to convince the voters,” he said. “We told the public up front what it would cost, so you have to hold your heads high. There's a certain segment of the population that does not want to see their property taxes raised for any reason, we tried hard to overcome that, and it didn't happen.”

UNM-LA Advisory Board Chairman Steve Boerigter brought the crowd's spirits up a little bit by also telling them they did all they could do to get the vote out.

“We executed an excellent campaign,” he said to the crowd. “We informed the voters as much as they wanted to be informed, we were honest and straight. There wasn't anything else we could have done to make this vote come out different.”

Get more on this developing story in the next edition of the Los Alamos Monitor.