News Column

Santa Fe Co. Asking Voters to Approve $35 Million in Bonds

Oct. 16, 2012

Phaedra Haywood

Santa Fe County is asking voters to approve $35 million worth of general obligation bonds in the Nov. 6 general election: $19 million for roads, $10 million for water and wastewater projects and $6 million to fund open space and trails projects.

The funding requests will be posed in separate questions, so voters can choose to fund projects in one category but not another.

In a pamphlet being distributed by the county, officials say they've worked to maintain a steady debt load over the years, and that passage of the bonds "is not expected to significantly impact county property tax rates because previous bonds are being paid off."

That said, officials estimate that if all three categories of bonds were approved, the owner of a house valued at $300,000 would see an increase of about $34 a year in property taxes. Conversely, if all the bond requests fail, the homeowner would see a $34 drop in their annual property taxes for the next 15 to 17 years, according to information provided by Santa Fe County.

The total cost to the property owner over the life of the bonds would be about $578, officials say.

The three questions will be worded in a general way that will allow the county flexibility to decide which projects to fund in each approved category as needs arise.

County officials have compiled a list of 32 road projects, seven water projects and five open space projects that are potential uses for the funds. The list of proposed projects and a map showing their locations can be found at www.santafecountynm.gov.

New roads to ease traffic in residential areas near Santa Fe Community College, pipelines that would move county water from Rancho Viejo to Eldorado -- and possibly to Canoncito -- and continued work on the trail and greenway along the Santa Fe River are all projects that might be funded with money generated by the general obligation bonds.

Commissioner Daniel Mayfield said Thursday that voters in District 1, north of the city of Santa Fe, might not see many projects listed in their area because the county has decided to tap other funding sources for some projects there. But, he said, District 1 residents can expect about $1 million worth of road improvements in the area if voters approve the bonds.

Widening narrow roads so two vehicles can safely pass and improving low-water crossings on roads that were "laid out in running, active arroyos" will take priority, Mayfield said.

Voters in District 2, to the northwest and southwest of the city, might see improvements to Camino la Tierra, Pinon Hills or Puesta del Sol if the road bonds are approved. Continued improvements to the Santa Fe River greenway project (which includes riverbed restoration and trail work along the river from the city limits to the wastewater-treatment plant) is a big-ticket project that could impact the area if open space bonds are approved. The county says completing all phases of that project, including development of a park, will cost about $4 million.

Residents of District 3, the county's largest geographically, could see numerous road projects funded if voters support the water bond question. On the list are improvements to six roads in the far south of the county -- including Western Road, Jaymar Road and North Weimer Road -- and in the La Cienega area. Approval of the open spaces bonds also could provide $200,000 that county officials need to create a plan for open space on County Road 42 (the previous Thorton Ranch property, including Petroglyph Hill) and $676,000 the county would like to spend on remediation of archaeological resources on Mount Chalchihuital near Waldo.

District 5 Commissioner Liz Stefanics said bond proceeds could provide some or all of the funding to build a $5 million road that would decrease traffic in and around the Oshara Village subdivision by joining Rabbit Road to Chili Line Road. Stefanics said the northeast portion of the road, which would connect Richards Avenue to Rabbit Road, also could be funded by bonds, but those roads might receive federal or state funding because they would serve as frontage roads. Stefanics said the new road wouldn't connect to Eldorado, as some residents seem to think.

Money generated from the water bonds could be used to fund construction of a pipeline between Rancho Viejo and Eldorado, which would cost about $2.5 million and, Stefanics said, would allow Eldorado to purchase water from the county in times of drought. The county also plans to spend about $3.2 million to make improvements to the Quill Water Reclamation Plant in the N.M. 14 area, which currently serves the state penitentiary but could potentially serve customers in the area where Interstate 25 and N.M. 599 meet.

Passage of the bonds would create a funding source for numerous projects in District 4, northeast and southeast of the city. District 4 Commissioner Kathy Holian said some of the money might be used to solve ongoing problems on La Barbaria Road (County Road 67F), which is constantly impassable due to flooding. Paving the road and dealing with drainage problems there would set the county back about $500,000. About $850,000 could be used to fund construction of a 12-inch waterline from Old Santa Fe Trail to El Gancho Way, which Holian said would include installation of fire hydrants to serve residents near Old Las Vegas Highway.

Santa Fe County also is considering spending about $1.9 million on addressing water and wastewater needs in the Glorieta area. Holian said that money would consolidate three existing water systems with new infrastructure and a new well. She said a new wastewater-treatment plant in the area would serve residents currently served by the treatment plant at the LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center, which is closed and is being offered for sale.

Santa Fe County could receive a windfall from proposed statewide tax increases, including a request for $10.3 million in state bonds for the delivery of senior services, of which Santa Fe County would get about $1.2 million for various projects, and a request for approval of $120 million for higher education, about $1 million of which would be earmarked for Santa Fe Community College.



Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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