When I came on board as President of Northern New Mexico College in the Fall of 2016, the community had two questions that were asked more than any others – first, “What is Northern doing to bring back trades programs?” and “What are we doing to revitalize the El Rito campus?”
After three years of listening to community input, forging partnerships, and working side-by-side with state and local leaders, I am proud to say that we are now in a position to address both questions, but we need your help.
Northern New Mexico College’s Mill Levy will be on the ballot this November 5, which, if passed, would bring $2.4 Million annually to establish and sustain key trades programs, including plumbing/pipefitting and electrictal, to our El Rito and Española campuses. Hands-on apprenticeship classes would begin on the El Rito campus starting in the Fall of 2020.
In addition, Northern would be able to provide free transportation to and from each of our five partner school districts to both of our college campuses for high school students and any community member living in those areas who wish to take advantage of these programs. The passage of this initative also means that 1,400 high school students living in Northern New Mexico would have access to dual-credit opportunities, including in trades, paving the way for their future.
Passage of Northern’s Mill Levy will no doubt serve students and their families, but they won’t be the only beneficiaries. Right now, employers and contractors often have to hire craft trade professionals from Oregon, California, Colorado and many other places, and end up paying more because they have to subsidize housing and other living costs while they are here in New Mexico. Every time a local employer has to hire someone from out of state, jobs and dollars leave New Mexico.
Your support of this initative would mean that we can grow talent here, and keep resources in our communities. When we educate our own future workforce, particularly plumbers and electricians with great starting salaries, those individuals and their families will support local businesses, purchase property, build homes, and pay taxes. At that point, all of us as community members benefit, not just the students and graduates themselves. Ultimately, the Northern’s Mill Levy initiative is not just an education effort, but a comprehensive economic development effort.
For the average voter, passage of the mill levy will mean an increase in property taxes of the average homeowner from between $2 to $5 per month. We know that every dollar matters in our community, which is why we purposely kept the ask low, but we also know that any new tax is a controversial issue. I will also pledge that the mill levy funding will not go toward raising my salary or any other executive. It will be used for the operations of the community college to provide opportunities for student success.
Thanks to the help of legislators and our partner school districts, we have been able to lay the ground work for this initative. We started by helping to craft Senate Bill 431, that Senator Richard Martinez and the late Senator Carlos Cisneros carried during this past legislative session, with the help of Representatives Joseph Sanchez and Susan Herrera in the House. That bill allowed Northern to establish a co-located community college branch imbedded within our structure, and passed the state senate by a vote of 38-0 and then passed the house 63-0. Democrats and Republicans alike supported our plan unanimously, and the governor signed it into law in April. As significant as this accomplishment was, it was only the beginning.
I then traveled to five public school districts to meet with superintendents and make presentations to school board members. In the end, five public school districts—Española, Pojoaque, Mesa Vista, Chama and Jemez Mountain—agreed to come together to form our community college district, to open the door for students to take advantage of new education opportunities, and to allow Northern to petition our voters for to fund trades education and economic development in our communities.
As I often say publicly, Northern New Mexico College is at your service. We are here to serve you—our community. This mill levy initiative is the product of what you have asked us to do. Our efforts to date have taken us far, but it is up to you, as voters, to take us the rest of the way. Your input and voice matter. I hope that you will consider joining us in determining the future of our great college, and the future of Northern New Mexico for years to come.
Richard J. Bailey, Jr., Ph.D.
President, Northern New Mexico College
Tagged: Mill Levy