Levy renewal sought

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

A mill levy to be voted on Feb. 1 would prolong a property tax to fund maintenance and building around area school districts.

If passed, a tax of $2 for every $1,000 of property would be assessed to fund school capital improvements in Clovis, Grady and Melrose. The tax would be enforced from 2005-2010.

Texico passed the levy in 2003 and is not scheduled to vote again on the tax until 2007, Superintendent R.L. Richards said.

In Clovis, the current fiscal year tax revenue is $741,348 with the state contributing at more than $482,000.

The levy is a continuation of a three-year levy passed in 2001 that will expire at the fiscal year’s conclusion. Property taxes in Clovis would remain at current level if the levy is passed. If defeated, property taxes would be reduced.

The levy, which has been in place since 1976, has traditionally passed with ease. In 2001 the issue passed by 77 percent margin.

Clovis Interim Superintendent G.C. Ross said the district intends to use half the funds for building maintenance and half for technology upgrades. If the bond does not pass, Ross is concerned construction would be adversely effected.

“It would be a significant blow to our maintenance and building upkeep,” he said.

Purchasing Agent Gene Bieker said the money would fund much of the day-to-day operations at the schools.

“When we have a roof leak and we need to get patching, this is the one that funds that,” Bieker said. “This is very important.”

School districts utilize four sources to fund capital outlay, Ross said. Schools can attain money through general obligation bonds, mill levies, the state capital outlay program and state funding for schools with health and safety deficiencies.

In February 2004, Clovis voters approved a $5 million general obligation bond by a 78-percent margin.

According to state law, districts can only participate in the critical capital outlay program if the district has the two-mill levy in place. Clovis schools have received nearly $10 million from this program since 2000, Ross said, making the February vote crucial.

If the levy fails, “we would knock out two of our funding sources,” Ross said.

Ross said the levy was increased to six years in 2002 under Gov. Bill Richardson’s education reform plan, perhaps to reduce election costs.

School board elections in all Curry County municipalities will also take place Feb. 1. Early voting began Jan. 7 and will continue through 5 p.m. on Jan. 28.