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College looking at tax increase

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By David Giuliani

Luna Community College is considering whether to ask voters to approve a tax hike to pay for building improvements.

Under its proposal, the tax bill for a $150,000 house would go up by $101. That would apply if the Luna service area — Las Vegas, Mora, Santa Rosa and Springer — stays the same.

If the service area expands to places such as Raton, Vaughn and Pecos, the tax bill for a $150,000 house would be $81.

The increased tax would allow Luna to sell bonds to generate the proceeds for the improvements.

Luna officials presented their proposal during a meeting Wednesday afternoon in which they invited government and business leaders. Refreshments were served, with Spanish music playing in the background.

Luna already assesses a property tax for operations, but it hasn’t had one for debt service. As is stands, Luna’s tax assessment is average among community colleges in New Mexico.

With the new revenue, Luna officials are proposing projects that would include $5.5 million for the main campus as well as upgrades to buildings in Springer and Santa Rosa, among other sites. Other projects are proposed for Anton Chico, Watrous and Wagon Mound. The total price tag for the service area would be $12 million.

Paul Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets, Luna’s investment adviser, said the school will always have a need for new buildings and improvements to existing ones.

“You need a consistent revenue source,” he said.

With the proceeds of the bonds, he recommended Luna bring all sites’ infrastructure up to the same level.

“We need to make sure everyone has facilities that are equal,” he said.

Cassidy told the trustees that if they are able to increase the college’s service area, it could reduce individuals’ tax burden.

Luna President Pete Campos said a new tax would be important for the region.

“As we continue to develop northeastern New Mexico, we’re finding ways to assist ourselves. When we seek state resources, they ask if we’re helping ourselves,” Campos said.

He said the school can help itself by asking voters to pass the tax.

Cassidy agreed. He said he comes from northern New Mexico, but like a lot of people, he had to move to the Albuquerque area to make a living. He said Luna needs to help northern New Mexico with its economic development, so people can get jobs locally.

The Luna board didn’t take any action on the tax-increase proposal. None of the members commented on the proposal.