CCSD bond passes easily
By Alastair Lee Bitsóí
SHIPROCK, August 29, 2013
V oters living in the Central Consolidated School District approved a $20 million bond issue to fund a new school and several other projects in the 3,000-square-mile district, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The San Juan County Clerk's Office certified the results of the special election, which had a voter turnout of 614 in favor and 396 against. This means that construction of a new Kirtland elementary school, and heating and air conditioning upgrades and renovations at Kirtland, Shiprock and Newcomb High Schools will occur in the near future.
"We canvassed this morning at 10 a.m.," San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes told the Navajo Times on Wednesday. "It's official. It was a very smooth election. They had 5.5 percent turnout of their voters and it passed easily."
Voters were asked, "Shall the Central Consolidated School District issue $20 million of general obligation bonds to erect, remodel, make additions to and furnish school buildings, purchase or improve school grounds, purchase computer software and hardware for student use in public schools, provide matching funds for capital outlay projects funded pursuant to the Public School Capital Outlay Act or any combination of these purposes?" during a special bond election on Tuesday.
Opponents of the bond feared the property tax rate would increase. Most of the 396 votes against the bond were from the Kirtland area of the district — an off-reservation town where people own property — with 333 nay votes.
Bond issues, however, are generally a way to avoid raising the mil levy. School districts and municipalities sell bonds in order to raise money for capital improvements, then pay the investors back over time out of their debt service fund.
The proposed construction of a new Kirtland elementary on the grounds of Grace B. Wilson and Ruth N. Bond elementary schools means those schools would be closed and consolidated into the bigger, newer school.
With the passage of the bond, the district will cover about 37 percent of the cost for the proposed new school, with the state paying about 63 percent. The projected cost of the school is about $24.9 million.
According to district spokesman James Preminger, the annual property tax rate in the district should remain stable. Currently, citizens who own private taxable property in San Juan County pay $6.828 per $1,000 net taxable valuable of a home.
San Juan County determines the property taxes in the county, which is also home to thousands of Navajo people and others that live on non-taxable land known federally as Indian trust, or a reservation.
It's up to the county to make those property tax adjustments, Preminger said, adding that the county, which also gets tax money from local mines and power plants, would set the future rate, if needed.
"If the state and county are suddenly getting less money from local industry, then the county and state will look at different avenues to get more money, including raising property tax revenues," he said. "All of that is uncertain."
Regardless, Preminger said, "We're going to try to take care of our schools as best we can."
Property owners should also keep in mind that reservation schools supplement property tax funding with federal impact aid funding, Preminger added. Impact aid provides money to public school districts for individuals living on non-taxable land.
"Navajo people pay taxes, but in a different way," Preminger explained.
School Board President Matthew Tso was pleased with the "green light" vote because it allows the district to immediately address much-needed improvements to all CCSD schools.
"Our children and parents deserve the very best," he said. "In all, the money from the bond election will benefit all students in our District by making our schools and facilities excellent places for learning."
Tso added the school district is projected to receive $19 million in impact aid funding this school year, with about 75 percent of it going to the state because of the equalization formula it uses to fund all public schools in New Mexico.
"Impact Aid serves as payment in lieu of property taxes because 80 percent of the district is comprised of Navajo Nation trust land," Tso said, adding that about 90 percent of the district's students are Navajo.
Contact Alastair L. Bitsóí at 928-871-1141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.