Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE COUNTY, N.M. — Santa Fe County voters displayed a generous mood in Tuesday's election results, decisively approving three bond issue proposals worth a cumulative $35 million. Rural county residents also approved a quarter-cent gross receipts tax increase to fund capital firefighting needs.
"I am particularly pleased because a lot of that bond is going to be for services that go directly back to the community, that affect the larger community," County Commissioner Virginia Vigil said.
The bonds will provide $19 million for roads, $10 million for water and wastewater projects and $6 million for open space, parks and trails. The proposals were unofficially approved with more than two-thirds of the vote.
The fire tax increase - about 25 cents on a $100 purchase - is expected to generate about $1.24 million annually. The tax will only apply to sales by businesses located in county areas outside the incorporated municipalities of Santa Fe, Española and Edgewood.
Tax revenue will be used for fire equipment vehicles, buildings, gear and similar items. State law mandates it cannot be used for salaries or benefits.
About two-thirds of voters green-lighted the tax. It was a far cry from three years ago, when voters soundly rejected the tax increase in a special election.
"I'm very appreciative of the majority of Santa Fe County voters who appear to recognize the value of the Santa Fe County Fire Department and are willing to raise taxes to further support our operations," County Fire Chief David Sperling said.
Vigil noted that there wasn't any strong opposition to the bonds this year, something she attributed to the county's efforts to educate people about the proposals and quick responses to questions and inquiries.
Property taxes back the public works bonds. The owner of a $300,000 home will pay about $578 over the 15-17 year life of the bonds, or about $35 annually. However, tax rates should remain relatively flat for homeowners because the new bond issues will replace previous bonds that are being paid off.
The county plans to use the $19 million roads bond to pay for a connector road that will allow Rancho Viejo residents to access St. Francis Drive, as well as paving and improvements for 31 other projects.
The $10 million for water and water infrastructure projects will fund seven projects, including nearly $3.3 million for improvements at the Quill wastewater treatment plant that serves the state penitentiary and other developments south of town and $1 million for water supply infrastructure for the Glorieta area.
The $6 million parks and trails bond will be used to continue a greenway along the Santa Fe River and remediate a defunct lead mine at Mount Chalchihuitl south of town, among other projects.
A complete list of projects the bond issues will pay for can be found at www.santafecountynm.gov.
Copyright 2012 Albuquerque Journal