Letter To The Editor: Vote ‘For’ Bond To Continue Process To Upgrade School Facilities

By MORRIE PONGRATZ
Former County Councilor and former School Board member

One of the frustrations during my years on the School Board was that all school district operational funds are allocated by the state on a per-pupil basis, regardless of local cost-of-living. Teachers are paid from the operational fund and it costs more to live in Los Alamos. We found that needed maintenance and utility costs for our aging facilities were robbing the operational fund of money that could go to staff salaries.

We formed a team to examine the difference between continuing to patch buildings with operational funds or to replace them using bond funds. That team generated a priority list of schools where replacement was the better option. The voters supported the bonding option and passed ballot measures that led to new classrooms at the high school, the middle school and Aspen. As Bill Wadt wrote, “The schools are a role model for effective engagement of the community in the wise expenditure of precious taxpayer dollars.”

By voting “For” on the bond election ballot we can continue this step-by-step process to upgrade all our facilities, including Chamisa, Pinon and Mountain! The impact of a “No” vote? As Suzette Fox wrote, “Repairs are necessary because of sewage and plumbing issues and HVAC repair… This could possibly mean having less money for teacher salaries.”

Steve Girrens wrote, “Strong schools are vital to our community’s enduring strength and attraction and underpin all future investments in our community.” Note that more than 40 local businesses from Abe Dispenette to Zia Credit Union have signs in their windows endorsing the bond vote. Hampering the Lab’s ability to hire the best and the brightest can cost me way more in the asset value of my house than what I pay via this bond!

And, oh by the way, according to 2010 Census Bureau data, Los Alamos ranks 16th in the state in the percentage of school funds coming from the federal government; we’re tied with the Pojoaque School District at 25.5 percent of our funds coming from the feds. I was surprised to see that we get a smaller percentage of our money from the feds than neighboring districts Jemez Valley, Bernalillo and Las Vegas West.

A vote in favor of the bond does not increase property tax rates.

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