FAQ: Los Alamos Recreation Bond Election


Voting questions from the community and answers from the County regarding the Los Alamos Recreation Bond Election:

Q: Did the County consider having each recreation project listed separately on the ballot so that voters could vote YES or NO on each one?

A: The Council discussed the formation of the ballot in December and in a public hearing in February, after consulting with Bond Counsel to develop the ballot question.

The question stated on the ballot is “Shall the Incorporated County of Los Alamos issue up to $20 million of general obligation bonds, to be repaid from property taxes, for the purpose of designing, acquiring, constructing, purchasing, and improving recreation facilities, buildings and add additions thereto?”

They decided there would be one question; at the time of discussion in December, they stated that asking voters to support the combined five recreation projects in one package would be the most appropriate.

Q: Why doesn’t the ballot language specifically list the five projects?

A: At the recommendation of Bond Counsel, the Council decided that the language of the question should include wording for “recreation facilities, buildings and additions thereto” because it allows for the broadest use of the funds to accomplish many items that may be needed and related to the final project. Restrictive, specific ballot language can lead to issues later in use of the funds.

The County’s election outreach, such as the Voter Information Booklet, discusses each project and its planned location.

Although not specifically stated in the ballot language, the Council has voiced its support for moving

forward in a vote for all five projects approved 5-2 on Dec. 20, 2016.

Q: Who can vote?

A: All Los Alamos County registered voters are eligible to vote.

Ballots were mailed the week of May 2, 2017. Ballots must be received in the Los Alamos County Clerk’s office by 7 p.m. May 23, 2017.

Q: Can a permanent resident, but not a U.S. citizen, who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory vote in the recreation bond election?

A: No. You must be a U.S. citizen in order to vote.

Q: Who do I call if I have a question about voting eligibility?

A: The Clerk’s phone number is 505.662.8010 for more information or visit: http://losalamosnm.us/government/elected_officials/county_clerk/

Facilities’ Questions

Q: Why is the pool an outdoor pool?

A: It’s not an outdoor pool; the illustration shows the roof removed for illustrative purposes, however, it is enclosed.

Q: Is there a separate entrance for the new pool or is it connected to the Aquatic Center?

A: There are cost benefits to attaching the new pool to the existing center and that is what is shown in the illustration. It was priced in the early conceptual estimates to have separate facilities to support the new pool such as the family changing rooms, however, a separate entrance is not expected.

Residents would enter using the existing Aquatic Center entrance.

Q: Will the recreation center have a track that can be used for walking as well as running?

A: The track will have a line down the center where the right half walks and the left half runs. The track direction typically changes from clockwise to counter clockwise on the facility’s schedule so the track wears correctly.

Q: What will the entrance fees be for the proposed recreation center?

A: Entrance fees have not been established.

Q: What separates the track in the Recreation Center from games being played in the middle of the multi-use room? This seems like there could be risks to runners and walkers from loose basketballs, etc. if games are going on in the center.

A: There would be a protective curtain that would drop to protect runners and walkers on the track I   there was a game in progress.

Q: Are you closing the Golf Course to do the irrigation project?

A: No. It will be phased over time to keep portions open for play. Details on how that will be accomplished will be forthcoming once the project goes out for construction bids and largely depends upon the approach that the contractor wants to use to do the work.

Q: How can the County’s Public Works department manage so many projects all at once? Is there adequate staff for that?

A: The projects would be phased over time. Some would proceed before others. The County does have  Project Managers dedicated to oversight of capital projects, some of which have been quite complex in the last decade that were occurring within months of each other.

The County works diligently to deliver all projects on time and within budget.

Q: Which project gets built first?

A: The bonds would need to be sold in order to finance all five projects. Obviously, some are more complex than others. It’s probably safe to presume that the less complex to design and build projects – or those for existing facilities like the golf course improvements and the softball field improvements for Overlook Park – would move to construction more quickly than the Multi – generational Pool or the Recreation Center. Infrastructure for the Recreation Center needs to be installed first on DP Road as part of the project (funding for the water and sewer lines is a separate economic development project).

Q: Why do we need facilities like this? It seems like our population of 18,000 can’t support large facilities like a Recreation Center.

A: The County held a variety of listening sessions for nearly a year to identify community needs and wants. The Recreation Center was the culmination of the desire of many sporting groups with similar needs for programming space that is difficult to fulfill with existing County parks or School facilities. The multi – use space at the Recreation Center, along with the requested second Indoor Ice Arena, was the result of those conversations, rather than building stand – alone facilities that require more land, parking and higher operating costs because each facility operates on its own. Amenities like these are largely Quality of Life components for a community and the product of how the residents wish to fund and support them, rather than being restricted only by community size.

In addition, there was a study undertaken by a recreation/sports consultant (Greenplay) and after interviewing users and analyzing usage, they recommended the sizing of the Recreation Center to meet existing demand and accommodate future uses. They also recommended the indoor ice arena be designed to be converted into a multi-purpose space; unless demand for year-round ice develops once the Recreation Center is open. It is anticipated that the arena would be drained in the summer months and used for other programs such as festivals, flea markets, movie nights or other community sports/recreation uses.

Find the Greenplay study at www.losalamosbondprojects.com

Q: What happened to the Tennis Court additions?

A: The courts addition did not advance to the recreation bond package that was finalized and approved by Council last December. Instead, the Council asked their advisory Parks and Recreation Board to work with stakeholders in evaluating what courts might be in use County – wide and how the County might proceed with a project at a site that works for all involved. Their report is due to Council by November 2017.

Q: Will there be any money left for new projects two or three years from now? It seems like this will use up all of the money for new capital projects for a very long time.

A: The County evaluates capital project requests every fiscal year. Long-range revenue projections take

into consideration rates of spending, existing debt, and the community’s desires for new facilities – not only for design and construction but for long term operating and maintenance (O&M) costs. It is an evolving process based on current circumstances at the local, state or federal level that can fluctuate year to year. Capital plans are re-evaluated yearly for this reason and discussed with the Council during budget hearings each April.

The capital project permanent fund generates $1.25 Million per year and will be available for other capital projects beginning in 2020 if bond passes.

Q: Are the softball field improvements going to be for the high school teams only? Are adult softball players going be moved off the only field with lights?

A: No, if the bond passes, County staff will work with all user groups to determine the best usage for the field. The goal is to increase participation on the field so all can use the upgrades.

Q: Are there any plans to install art near the five projects?

A: Part of the cost includes a County – required 1 percent fee for Art in Public Places, and the project team will discuss options for art with the Art in Public Places Board after they are constructed. Find out more about the Art In Public Places Board and their charter at http://www.losalamosnm.us/government/boards___commissions

Q: Who would operate the Recreation Center?

A: The operating and maintenance costs in the Voter Information Booklet anticipates the County will hire employees to run and care for the facility. Alternatively, the County could hire a contractor for this function, which would be a competitive bid.

Q: Won’t the Recreation Center and Multi-generational Pool hurt businesses or pools in town who charge fees for similar programming?

A: Some of the programming for the Recreation Center mirrors similar options found at the YMCA; however, there is no weights/workout room at the proposed facility. Staff from the YMCA have attended stakeholder meetings and shared concerns brought forward by the community for the need for more programming space for options such as basketball or indoor soccer.

The outdoor pools managed by private entities offer a different type of amenity and experience than envisioned for the Multi-Generational pool.

Q: Why is the Recreation Center proposed to be built on Parcel A-16 on DP Road, the site of a former clean-up site called MDA-B? Isn’t that dangerous?

A: The DOE is in the process of transferring the parcel to the County, and it was cleaned up to recreational use standards several years ago using federal environmental remediation funds that would permit this kind of use. The site was also selected over another site on North Mesa because it is closer to White Rock.

Q: We live in the desert. Installing a Splash Pad seems water-wasteful.

A: The water used at the splash pad would be collected and recirculated; it would go through filters and get disinfected like a mini-pool system. The filter would need to be backwashed and that backwashed water would be sent to the cistern for park irrigation.

Financing Questions

Q: Will the proposed 2.2 mil be at current home taxable valuation price for the entire 20-year bond or will this amount change each year with the taxable value of the property? If it is based on the yearly taxable value of the property, do you know the average percentage increase per year of taxable value of homes in Los Alamos County over the last 20 years?

A: The bond will have a fixed repayment schedule and once sold, the amount of property tax collected per home should not vary much from year to year.

Q: The rate cited in the Voter Information Booklet is for residential property. What about business property? Is that rate the same or different?

A: The same rate of 2.2 mils would apply equally to residential and non-residential. The annual mil rate on the bonds would be derived by dividing the repayment by the total assessed valuation (includes residential and non-residential).

Q: Does Contract AGR16-062 with Dekker Perich Sabatini for services relating to the bond measure expire with the results of the vote, or can the county still draw against it if the measure passes?

A: Yes, it expires with the bond election.

Q: ContractAGR17-15c includes Dekker Perich Sabatini as one of four contractors for architectural services. Is there anything to prevent them from bidding on any work for the bond projects should the vote pass?

A: Dekker Perich Sabatini and three other firms have been selected for On-Call Services contracts. There is nothing to prevent them from bidding on work for the bond projects should the vote pass.

Q: What are the projected utilities for refrigeration and maintenance of the indoor ice arena?

A: The projected budget is $150,000 for utility costs and $81,000 per year specifically for the indoor ice arena.

Q: Will the proposed recreation center be “green?”

A: The proposed recreation center will utilize many features to save energy including reduced water usage, LED lighting and smart meters that help identify ways to use energy more efficiently.

Q: Will the outdoor ice rink be maintained if the bond election passes?

A: Yes. There is no plan to change the outdoor rink or close it.

Q: How will the County pay the operating costs for the projects?

A: The County will be reducing its debt payment in 2019 on the Pajarito Cliff Site. The admission fees will generate approximately $600,000 in revenue per year. The combination of those two will support the annual operating costs.

Q: What if our community’s financial situation changes dramatically after the new facilities are built – do we have savings set aside?

A: The County carries a 20 percent reserve to help bridge any potential economic uncertainties.

Q: There are five projects to be designed and constructed. Can the County provide the necessary resources for project oversight of the schedule and budget?

A: The County hired Dekker Perich Sabatini to assure a third party review of the cost data. Also the County has a track record of delivering facility projects on time and on budget.

Q: I am concerned this could impact those on a fixed income or low income. What provisions are being made to reduce these impacts?

A: Many low-income people don’t own homes, and they won’t have an increase in taxes. For those who do own – if their house is worth $150,000, their tax increase will be $9/month, which is tax – deductible.

The County also hopes low-income individuals will take advantage of the recreation improvements, offered at a reasonable fee. The Splash Pad is programmed to be a free venue.

The County also offers a low income property tax rebate, which might apply.

Q: How much will my taxes increase?

A: The current residential tax rate is 24.374 mils. The recreation bonds are an increase of 2.2 mils, which is a 9 percent increase.

Q: Would it be possible to use the $13.4 million in the capital funds bank to pay for the projects we can afford and avoid a property tax increase?

A: Using existing cash reserves to supplement the $20 million bond is a leveraging strategy that was evaluated and approved by the Council. Passing a property tax increase would indicate the community’s support for the projects, which was important to the Council because they do have long term impacts that will require support.

Q: How long do we have to pay the property tax increase?

A: 20 years is the expected pay back rate; the tax would be in effect for the next 20 years, starting in Fall 2018.

Q: If the bond doesn’t pass a vote, could the Council still build the projects that it could afford to pay cash out of the $13.4 million?

A: There has been no discussion with Council about next steps if the bond does not pass.

Q: Did the FY18 budget anticipate the bond would pass? Are these projects in the budget?

A: Yes, the projects are listed in the FY18 budget recently adopted by Council.

Q: What would the impact be for the School District, or, for business owners – I am concerned it could increase their operating costs. Won’t it detract from economic development if our taxes are higher here than elsewhere? Or detract from those wanting to move here and buy a home if it is cheaper to buy elsewhere?

A: Any entity owning property would see the tax increase. Quality of life amenities are a matter of opinion and personal lifestyle or business needs and wants. Some feedback heard in public meetings in 2015 and 2016 indicated that residents would rather pay more in tax than “drive off the hill” for some of these amenities. For example, parents commented that they take their children to Genoveva Chavez Center which costs them their time and cost of gasoline, and they would prefer to stay local and spend dollars locally. Quality of life amenities can be attractive for those looking to start a business here or moving here.

Q: What is included in the current property tax in Los Alamos County?

A: For a breakdown of what’s included in the County’s property tax, please visit: http://www.losalamosnm.us/government/elected_officials/assessor/tax_rate/ or visit New Mexico Counties: http://www.tax-rates.org/new_mexico/property-tax

Q: I am concerned about the County taking on these projects with their design, construction and operation costs when the Laboratory contract will be going out to bid this year and there is uncertainty if the new contractor will be “for profit” – it seems risky to move forward – why not wait a year until we know what is happening with the LANL contract award?

A: There are still “off ramps” in the process if additional information about the LANL contract, or any change in the County’s finances, causes a change and concern. First, if the bond passes, there will be time needed to work with bond counsel and then to secure the bonds on the market. Next, the projects need to be designed and reviewed, which will require placing them out to bid for design services  (typically 90 days) and then completing the designs and having Council review them. After that occurs, the design would move to construction, which is an additional time allotment for bid plans to be drawn up and then placed out to bid, and then have a contract be awarded by the Council.

Finally, there would need to be careful consideration of our short construction season – projects are typically built May to October. It is unlikely that any construction could occur on any of the five projects before May of 2018, given all of the above circumstances. By then, it’s anticipated the County will have much more insight into the future of the LANL contract.

Q: If something serious happened to jeopardize our revenues and we felt we could not proceed with any of the five projects, could the bonds be canceled? And if they are canceled, what happens to the property tax increase?

A: Yes, the bonds could be canceled and if so, the property tax would not take effect.

Q: If the bond vote passes, when will the property tax go into effect?

A: If the bonds are sold by this fall, the property tax would be sent to the State of New Mexico to include as a property tax to be assessed on future bills.

Because of the bond timing and State interaction, since the next property tax cycle would begin (be due) in November, it is unlikely that the tax would be assessed until the 2018 cycle (November 2018 would be the first time that a property owner would see the tax increase.)

Q: How will the County cover the operating and maintenance costs once the five projects are built?

A: Beginning in FY2020, the estimated operating impact (new expenses minus new revenues) will be approximately $1 million. That same year, the County will recognize a savings of approximately $1.7 million in pre-existing gross receipts tax debt service costs. It is expected that these savings will be used to pay for the new operating cost impact.