In addition to electing our next governor and other officials on Nov. 2, you will have the opportunity to vote on passage of various constitutional amendments and general obligation (GO) bonds that will have an important impact on our state as well.
If approved, Education Bond D will provide $155 million for capital improvements of higher education facilities across the state, including $12.1 million for New Mexico Highlands University and Luna Community College. A list of all the projects may be found at www.educationinnewmexico.com.
Highlands’ share would be $7.1 million and would be used to restore the university’s historic trolley building on our main campus and transform it into a beautiful, versatile state-of-the-art facility for our growing Media Arts Program. This is an opportunity to take a local architectural and historic treasure and turn it into a new landmark for our university and the Las Vegas community.
Back in 1903, Las Vegas had one of only two electric trolley systems in the state. The trolley barn, located at 12th and San Francisco, was built with local sandstone in the classic Romanesque style and has an imposing façade. Without restoration, this building will eventually collapse and be lost from our historic landscape.
Our Media Arts Program continues to build its regional and national reputation for the quality of our students’ cutting-edge work in design, multimedia, photography and film production. Here in New Mexico, a strong partnership with the state Department of Cultural Affairs has provided our Media Arts students with numerous opportunities to create new exhibits in museums and other cultural institutions. They also are doing work nationally with the Smithsonian and the National Science Foundation among others. This is a professional and growing program, and a building designed to address Media Art’s space and technical needs is paramount to the program’s continued success.
Our educational partners at Luna Community College would receive $5 million if Bond D passes to upgrade four vocational trade buildings on the main campus. Both school’s projects will help the local economy through jobs and money spent at local businesses.
Bond D replaces funding from bonds set to expire, so the costs are minimal: $9.98 a year, about 3 cents per day, on a home with an assessed value of $100,000. That’s less than the tax on your morning cup of coffee. It is also less than $1 per month and would bring $12.1 million into the local economy, and enhance higher education across New Mexico.
New Mexico voters have a long history of supporting higher education improvements. Here in San Miguel County support has been especially strong. In 2008, we had one of the highest approval ratings in the state. However, not all areas of the state will see the benefits from Bond D we will experience here in the Las Vegas region, and it is a statewide ballot, so your vote may well determine whether Bond D passes. I’d also like to note that Bond B, Statewide Libraries, will benefit all of the school and community libraries here in Las Vegas and the region.
Over the years, Bond D funding has had a big impact on improving Highlands University’s facilities for our students, and we are grateful. Recent examples include the remodeling of the Lora Shields building and the Felix Martinez building, several energy efficient projects that have reduced consumption and costs, improved campus safety, and numerous other small to large efforts that are visible across the campus.
Bond D may literally be the last item on your ballot, so you may have to turn the ballot over to vote on the bond issues. Your vote will only help determine whether Bond D passes if you remember to find it on the ballot and vote. I urge you to do so.
James Fries is president of New Mexico Highlands University. He may be reached at 505-454-3269 or email@example.com.