ESPANOLA — Northern New Mexico College is asking voters in Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos Counties to vote Nov. 5 on a Mill Levy ballot initiative to bring new trades education programs to the region and revitalize its El Rito Campus.
If passed, the Northern New Mexico College Mill Levy would provide $2.4 Million annually to establish and sustain associate degree programs in trades, including plumbing/pipefitting and electrical at its El Rito and Española campuses.
With the initiative, the College aims to create a skilled local workforce to meet employer needs and to support economic development for Northern New Mexico through strong community partnerships.
“November 5, 2019 is the most important day this college will have in a decade,” Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey said. “With the support of the voters, we can bring key trades programs to Northern New Mexico and sustain them for years to come.”
The ballot initiative would also expand dual credit and trades education opportunities to residents of the Española, Pojaque, Chama Valley, Mesa Vista, and Jemez Mountain School districts, including free transportation to and from Northern’s campuses.
“This is one of the most exciting times in our valley and an opportunity to give our students and community members an option to better their lives,” El Rito High School graduate and Española Chamber of Commerce board member Leo Valdez said. “The tax investment is a small price to pay for putting New Mexicans to work, and keeping dollars in New Mexico.”
Valdez said that employers often have to look out of state to hire trades workers in these key fields, which sends local money out of state and costs more due to the need to transport and house workers.
Northern’s Mill Levy is made possible by the creation of a branch community college district, which was passed unanimously by the New Mexico Legislature in 2019 and signed into law by the Governor. The Mill Levy would cost the average homeowner between $2.50 and $5.00 per month, or $2 on each $1,000 of net taxable property value, less than the cost of the average fast food meal. Taxable property value is calculated based upon the county assessments.
“Northern is committed to providing access to affordable, community-based learning opportunities that meet the educational, cultural, and economic needs of the region,” Bailey said. “Expanding trades education supports our mission as a truly comprehensive, community-serving college.”
Northern’s Mill Levy initiative has been endorsed by the Northern New Mexico Normal School Alumni Association, the Española Valley Chamber of Commerce, SER-Jobs for Progress, and the five branch community college partner school districts — Española, Pojoaque, Mesa Vista, Jemez Mountain, and Chama. Northern has also partnered with the United Association of Plumbers/Pipefitters Local Union 412 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union 611 to enroll 200 students in trades programs beginning Fall 2020.