Q: Why is Santa Fe Community College asking for $17 million in bond funding now?
A: One major reason is that we need to build an automotive center. Our current center is in rented space that is cramped and inadequate. It does not meet NATEF (National Automotive Technician’s Education Foundation) standards, which is important because we are trying to obtain this accreditation to allow our students to become ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certified. We have looked at whether there is appropriate space to renovate on campus or at the Higher Education Center, but there is not because of the special needs for this program. Also, there is no facility in Santa Fe County available for use or lease. Finally, a new automotive center would also allow us to double the number of students we could graduate annually.
We are also asking for the funding to renovate the William C. Witter Fitness Education Center. This Center is open to the public, and community members have been asking for it to be renovated for years.
Additionally, we need funding for technology upgrades, learning space and classroom improvements, infrastructure improvements and facility renewal campus wide. Some of these upgrades are needed to satisfy code, health and safety requirements and others are necessary to make sure our campus is updated to serve the evolving technology needs of our students.
Q: You say there isn’t going to be an increase in taxes, but when I read the ballot it sounds like there voting for the bond would increase my property taxes. How do you explain this?
A: The ballot is complex and the language is confusing. There are two questions on the ballot that affect Santa Fe Community College. Combined, both questions would allow the college to restructure its finances by raising the amount of the bond charged for our operations while decreasing the amount of the bond charged for our debt service.
- The first question would allow us to raise the portion of the bond we use for operations.
- The second question would allow $17 million in bonds which would lower the portion we use for capital costs, including debt repayment.
We did this deliberately so that tax rates would not increase. So even though the language is confusing, voting on both questions will result in no changes to the total tax rate. The graphic below illustrates how it would work:
Q: If I vote against the bond, will my taxes decrease?
A: Theoretically, they might, but it’s never happened before. When a statewide bond supporting higher education failed in 2012, taxes did not decrease in any county.
Q: Voters approved a $35 in 2010. What did you do with those funds?
A: Please see this document to view the 2010 bond expenditures.
Q: If the bond passes, would everything that is mentioned begin at once or would only one area be prioritized?
A: If the bond passes, work would begin in all identified areas (automotive center, William C. Witter Fitness Education Center, technology upgrades, infrastructure upgrades and classroom/lab renovations).
Q: When would this work take place?
A: Construction on some projects would probably start in 2019. If the bond passes, SFCC has to submit a plan to the Higher Education Department for approval before proceeding, then would have to design some projects, prepare specifications and solicit bids on the needed products and services.
Q: What if one bond question passes and the other bond question fails?
A: If the first question passes, which would increase the operational mil, and the second bond question, which authorizes $17 million in bond funding fails, the capital mil that is set a 1 mil would be reduced to less than .65. If the second question passes, which authorizes $17 million in bond funding passes, and the first question, which increases the operational mil fails, SFCC would still receive $17 million in funding but could ONLY use that funding for capital projects – not operational projects.
If both bond questions pass, the net result is no tax increase.
Q: If the bond passes, will it lead to higher tuition and fees?
A: Actually, if passes, it should help prevent future increases to tuition and fees. SFCC made modest increases in the fall 2017 semester to help make up for decreased funding from the New Mexico Legislature, but is committed to keeping tuition as affordable as possible. If the College has more operating funds from passage of the bond, it should help reduce the need to raise tuition or fees.
Q: As I understand it, a decrease in debt service funding would mean that the overall debt service term or duration would be extended in order to pay off the bond debt. Is that correct, and, if so, how much longer would it take to repay the debt by adding $17 million to the total?
A: There is not really an extension as the new $17 million in bonds would be paid back in approximately 12-15 years, which is about the same time line as previous bonds. The result of a lower debt service mil rate occurs due to less bonds being potentially issued if voters were to approve the ballot question.
Q: Can’t Santa Fe Community College fund these needs by raising student tuition?
A: Santa Fe Community College is committed to keeping tuition affordable. We want our students to be able to afford an education in order to pursue a career or save money in able to be able go on to a four-year institution.
In order to address ongoing budget cuts from the state, SFCC did enact increases in tuition and fees for the Fall 2017 semester of $1 per credit for in-state/in-district tuition and in-state/out-of-district tuition, $30 per credit for out-of-state resident tuition, and some increases in fees.
Still as the chart below shows, SFCC’s per-credit-hour charges and tuition are still below the average for all community colleges in New Mexico and well below per-credit-hour charges and tuition charged by four-year universities.