Los Alamos voters have a rare opportunity to consider a tax increase proposal that actually has sound justification, the UNM-LA mil levy increase.
No community owes more to education nor values it more highly than ours. UNM-LA is an important local educational resource. It does its job well. Its graduation and job placement rates far exceed state averages.
UNM-LA’s operating mil levy has not increased since its founding 30 years ago. Alone, that is not a valid argument for the proposed hike. Their revenue from the existing levy has increased with inflation, as have their expenses. The real question is “what has changed?”
UNM-LA’s scope of instruction has expanded. Among other new missions, for example, they now provide college credit (dual credit) classes to high school students at NO COST to the students. In effect, they have become part of K-12 education but receive no funding to do so. At the same time, UNM-LA’s funding from the state has declined by approximately one-third in recent years. It is financially strapped.
In effect, the state has unwittingly put more control of this component of education in local hands – where it should be.
Taxes at all levels are far too high. Many governmental entities plead poverty but continue to waste taxpayer dollars on unproductive programs, sloppy management, oversized bureaucracies, and inefficient facilities. But taxes are not inherently evil. Some are necessary and well used. We should not let the sins of other government entities cloud our perspective on this proposal.
UNM-LA has a small non-teaching staff. It has slowly renovated or added to its modest original buildings and appears to have maintained them well. It currently receives only one percent of total (GRT and property) local tax revenues. (85 percent goes to the County and 14 percent to K-12 schools which get the bulk of their funding through state taxes.)
This proposed mil levy increase for UNM-LA warrants consideration on its own merits. Good education is one of the best investments we can make. But it is not free. UNM-LA has worked hard to provide good educational value. It has earned our support.