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Leaders speak on college building plan

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Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013 12:00 am

When it comes to the higher education tax, opinions are in no short supply. And now — a few weeks before a special election that could reduce future funding for UNM’s Rio Rancho campus — the university announced it will collaborate with Central New Mexico Community College on a new building project in the City Center.

On Aug. 20, voters will decide whether to reduce the tax to one-eighth cent. Some city councilors say they’ll establish a new one-eighth cent tax dedicated to the police and fire departments if the cut is approved.

Now UNM and CNM officials say they are designing a new building that would be located near the adjacent campuses of UNM West and CNM and focus on science, technology, engineering, health care and mathematics, according to a joint announcement from the institutions. The public will be able to weigh in the plan at design “charrettes” planned in early August, with dates and locations to be established in concert with Rio Rancho business and civic leaders.

“UNM, partnering with CNM and the city, will likely discuss all kinds of possibilities during the planning process. The charrette is intended to bring community members,” said Beth Miller, the university’s director of outreach and strategic initiatives. “I think we would like to talk about a longer view with the community. What should UNM West pursue that will distinguish this campus from the main campus …?”

Wynn Goering, newly-appointed CEO of UNM West, said the goal of the meetings is to determine the needs of the community as well as UNM’s and CNM’s and how a new building can address those.

The other important goal is to find out how to build a new building, “including and especially how various funding options might apply,” Goering said.

“That said, we (UNM) would, of course, hope that this could be done in such a way as to utilize the funds generated by the GRT,” he said, referring to the city’s quarter-cent gross receipts tax dedicated to higher education buildings and infrastructure.

“When the time comes I hope the appropriate city officials will help us explore that.”

He added that, although a few city councilors have questioned the timing of the meeting, it has little to do with the election.

“There’s nothing mysterious about the timing of the charrette. … CNM and UNM have been having discussions about possibly sharing the next building project in Rio Rancho since their respective first buildings went up three years ago.”

Goeing said some councilors “have been demanding that UNM present ‘a plan’ for months. Now that we have, he and other councilors object to the timing? I think that underscores the reality that they are uninterested in UNM’s plans — they simply want the money.”

Looming question

It is still something of an open question whether the city could actually use higher education gross receipts tax money to help pay for the building under the proposed collaboration. CNM already receives financial support as the result of a mill levy, or property tax, for that college to pay for its infrastructure needs.

Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack said if and when the university brings a request for funding to the city council, the wording of the request and possible agreement would be very important.

He said he’s been courting higher education institutions for Rio Rancho since the mid-90s.

“The accessibility of higher education could be easier and more collaborative so that the student would receive a more cohesive education plan,” he said. “This gives them the opportunity to start to put together a seamless system … The students are going to benefit.”

For the university to tap into that money, the city ordinance that sets the rules for how the money is to be spent would have to be changed, Councilor Lonnie Clayton said.

He said the money is designated only for four-year higher education institutions and CNM is a two-year college.

He also said he made numerous visits to the UNM West campus and took an informal head count of students there.

According to his estimation, only about a quarter of the building is being put to use.

“If you have a building where 26 percent is being used, would you want to spend your money and taxpayer money to build another building?” he asked.

Crumb tells all

After all the talk about the upcoming special election, Councilor Tim Crum said he’ll be holding a forum of his own — Aug. 6 at 7:15 p.m. at the Cabezon Recreation Center — to discuss why he voted in favor of the special election to begin with.

He said he places a lot of importance on public safety and feels response times for firefighters and police are slipping.

Crum also noted that a quarter-cent gross receipts tax the governing body approved several years ago was discussed as a tax that would go to fund emergency services.

Instead of being dedicated to police and firefighters, that money went into the general fund, he said.

The majority of the council voted in favor of the measure, he said.

“I voted against it,” he said. “(At the time), my colleagues could not guarantee those monies would go to public safety. … I thought it was prudent to send (the current tax matter) to the voters. I believe in voter wisdom.”

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Johnny Qwest posted at 2:51 pm on Tue, Jul 23, 2013.

    Johnny Qwest Posts: 50

    It's no secret that UNM and APS have run their "business" for years with little interference from the outside world. Much like the Vatican does and very secret. This is a business, and in education it's all about numbers and tax money.
    Bottom line is UNM and CNM together is too much for Rio Rancho period!
    Combine then together or get rid of one of them, but do not support both.
    Top officials in this business make way too much money while teachers seem to never get enough. The students suffer because their tuition always rises to meet the salary increases of the oligarchy.
    It's time to reduce our tax burden and take care of our police and fire personnel.
    While you're are at at City Council, start thinking about freezing property taxes for retirees and taxing those who maximize these resources. Then when we all vote perhaps we will see some common sense return to our city.
    The more liberal we become the more dependant on Big Brother
    we become. I want less tax, less welfare, less food stamps and more people working for themselves supporting their families. When a sense of pride returns to this country only then can we move forward.
    Return the mill levy back to Police and FIre where it was originally intended.
    The citizens voted for it and the city had NO business redireccting it into The General Fund. Did Mayor 200k have something to do with that slight of hand trick?
    Hold our politicians accountable folks, or we will all be paying for their mistakes.
    BTW or infrastructure is crumbling before our very eyes. Our roads are a joke. Water line breaks are as common as coyotes from Corrales killing our pets!
    Prioritize repairs to our city. Fund police and fire for without adequate protection we will start decaying like ABQ. Their police force is seeing massive retirements and defections due to lack of support fron CABQ! The Old West is back...protect yourself and your loved ones RR.

  • nmrrjw66 posted at 11:47 am on Mon, Jul 22, 2013.

    nmrrjw66 Posts: 2

    I will be voting against this. Education is more important than the PD and FD getting shiny new equipment they don't really need. I could think of multiple things I would put this money toward before I gave it to the PD. I saw a RRPD officer herding cows yesterday. They don't seem to be all that desperate for extra officers. I would love to see some of this surplus moved to help the Downtown area.

  • Eilish posted at 1:46 pm on Sun, Jul 21, 2013.

    Eilish Posts: 63

    This is GREAT news! It's nice to finally see UNM using the free market to expand UNM West by partnering with CNM .... or wait, is this UNM trying to be cunning and make Rio Rancho believe it needs the higher ed GRT? Because guess what folks ... CNM doesn't qualify for this money, and therefore this collaberation cannot (by law) be subsidized by it.

  • highlander posted at 11:27 am on Sun, Jul 21, 2013.

    highlander Posts: 65

    Reference to the last paragraph; there seems to be a repeat of 'no guarantee' the money would go to public safety according to the articles in the Sunday issue which talks about PIDs, Broadmoor Blvd, and Police & Fire.

  • Q Citizen posted at 10:26 am on Sun, Jul 21, 2013.

    Q Citizen Posts: 560

    Wynn Goering, newly-appointed CEO of UNM West Rio Rancho.
    In 2011, "New Mexico’s Cost Saving Plan Actually Costs Money" is how the headlines read.
    The University of New Mexico came up with a great plan to save some cash. The university pays the vice provost, Wynn Goering, $192,000 a year. Why not eliminate Goering’s job. This was published about UNM in 2011. According to the article, UNM now has some 22 vice presidents and associate vice provosts. Does UNM really care about saving money?
    $192,000 salary to run UNM west’s small building and a staff of 11 employees?
    Then there is Mrs. Miller in the $100,000 range at the UNM West Rio Rancho Campus. There are others at the campus making top dollar. Call the campus and ask them what their salaries are, its public information.

    This isn't a campus it's Fort Knox. Is this a good use of taxpayers’ money?
    Many of us adjust our budgets to deal with water rates, raising property taxes, groceries, gas, and utilities. Why can’t UNM adjust their budget to help our Fire and Police?


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