Voters who turn out for the general election this fall will be asked to decide on a higher education bond initiative on the statewide ballot — General Obligation Bond C — which will greatly benefit our state’s colleges and universities without increasing property taxes.
While this bond issue does not include funding specifically earmarked for UNM West because our campus and our facilities are new, voting yes on this bond issue will benefit Rio Rancho. Why? Because it strengthens how UNM supports our community and our students.
Many of the students who attend UNM West also take classes at UNM in Albuquerque, or eventually will need to transfer to that campus to complete their degrees. 2012 GO Bond C includes $16 million to renovate UNM’s chemistry building and $3 million to help reconstruct and refurbish Castetter Hall, the biology building.
Over the past few years, enrollment in UNM’s Chemistry Department has grown more than 80 percent. Chemistry is one of the central sciences that are the foundation for all branches of health, science and engineering. So the department also provides service courses to more than 5,000 additional students. In addition, the chemistry hall is used to train students in physics and astronomy.
Built in 1969, the chemistry building’s labs and classrooms cannot accommodate modern research instrumentation. The available space is fully used with no room for expansion. Researchers and students must navigate a warren of small rooms with inadequate cooling, power and computer data access. In desperate need for significant renovation for more than 20 years, the chemistry building does not currently meet state and federal safety standards for heating and cooling, air quality, power and environmental concerns. Funding from GO Bond C will alleviate major safety concerns and provide a greatly improved environment for New Mexico’s future chemists.
The Department of Biology serves approximately 2,000 students, 90 percent of whom are from New Mexico. Over the past 10 years, biology majors have increased 275 percent. Biology students go into fields that are vital to our state’s future, including the Sustainability Program and the Water Resources Program. The proposed upgrade to be funded by Bond C will eliminate the need to store equipment in halls and for offices to serve as resource libraries.
In fact, voting yes on Bond C will help us maintain what we have already invested in: buildings and infrastructure at nearly 29 different educational institutions in 21 counties across the state. In the process, it will create 1,300 jobs in architecture and construction. In addition, these capital improvements will require materials to implement and complete the projects. Those who perform the work will purchase other goods and services in the communities where they are working, infusing money into local economies and further stimulating economic development and job growth.
Education has been at the forefront of issues facing New Mexicans and all Americans for some time. A well-educated workforce is essential to attract new businesses to our state, which help boost our economy. The more progressive businesses we attract to New Mexico, the more opportunity our college graduates have to build a successful career and a solid future in the communities where they grew up, where they have family, friends and roots.
Campus improvements help colleges and universities remain competitive to attract higher caliber students, which contribute to enrollment growth. Educated citizens tend to make higher salaries and participate more in their communities. So, investing in our future through our colleges and universities now will have long-lasting benefits.
General Obligation Bond C is an initiative that all New Mexicans can support. This fall when you vote, take the time to read all initiatives on the ballot and vote yes on Bond C. It’s a vote for your sons and daughters, your friends and neighbors, your community and your state. It’s also a vote for your future.
Absentee voting began Oct. 9 and lasts through Nov. 2. Early voting is scheduled from Oct. 20-Nov. 3, and polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6. For more information about Statewide General Obligation Bond C, visit educationbondc.com.
About the columnist
Elizabeth Miller is interim executive director, Rio Rancho Operations, for the University of New Mexico West.