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2012 October 29 - 12:00 am

POLITICS & POLICY: College Group Raises $283K To Promote NM Bond Issue

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Colleges and universities are banking on a statewide advertising campaign to help avoid a repeat of two years when New Mexico voters rejected a property tax-backed statewide bond proposal to finance renovation and construction projects for higher education.

The private fundraising foundations of colleges and universities have contributed nearly $261,000 to a political committee advocating voter approval in the general election of $119.4 million for infrastructure projects at campuses across the state. That accounts for about $9 of every $10 raised this year by the committee, GO Bonds for Education.

Gerald Burke of Las Cruces, chairman of the committee, said the money will go for television and newspaper advertising as well as billboards and brochures to explain the bond question and drive home a message that property taxes will not increase if voters approve financing the higher education projects.

The prospect of a tax increase, Burke contends, doomed a general obligation bond issue in 2010 that would have provided $155 million for projects at colleges, universities and some other schools. This year’s proposal was developed in the Legislature to avoid a higher property tax levy by having the amount of new financing offset bonds that will be retired.

“There’s no question if we don’t get the facts out better that there is no tax increase, we will be in trouble this time,” Burke said in an interview.

The higher education proposal is one of three statewide bond questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Others finance senior citizen projects and library acquisitions and equipment.

Campaign finance reports show the higher education committee has raised about $283,000 so far, and had a cash balance of $259,000 as of early September.

Foundations for the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University and their branch campuses contributed the most: About $64,800 from UNM groups and nearly $58,800 from NMSU organizations.

Other contributions ranged from about $32,800 from Central New Mexico Community College groups, almost $22,200 from Eastern New Mexico University organizations to $6,900 from the San Juan College Foundation and $1,790 from the Santa Fe Indian School Foundation.

Burke said the foundation contributions were based on the amount of project financing each school would receive under the bond issue and student enrollment at the colleges.

About $24.5 million of the bond financing is for UNM projects, including $16 million for chemistry building renovations. About $24 million is for NMSU projects, including $19,000 for renovation of Hardman and Jacobs Halls to create an undergraduate teaching center at the Las Cruces campus.

Burke said the bond issue is critical for colleges and universities because “this is the primary source of renovations and new construction for higher education in New Mexico.”

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