BELEN — In addition to two Belen Board of Education seats on the Nov. 2 ballot, voters in the Belen Consolidated Schools district will be asked to weigh in on the continuation of a 2 mill levy on property taxes.

Historically, the mill levy has generated about $1.5 million a year for the district, and is used in a number of ways, including repair and maintenance of facilities, renovations and more.

The tax goes out for a public vote every six years in school districts wishing to impose it, and is frequently known as SB9 funding for the legislation authorizing the levy.

The BCS mill levy question was last on the ballot in 2017 and was approved by 466 to 208. It is on the ballot this year due to changes in election laws implemented in 2018, and will come back for reauthorization in 2027 if approved this year.

“It can be used for parking lots, bus lanes, lighting, technology — there’s a lot we can use the funding for,” said Lawrence Sanchez, BCS superintendent. “A lot of it is behind the scenes, that people don’t necessarily see, like technology infrastructure, fiber, switches and servers. Furniture, teachers’ desks. All those kinds of things.”

The mill levy rate isn’t increasing, Sanchez said, so voting in favor of it won’t automatically mean an increase to property taxes.

“Now, someone’s property taxes could go up due to increases in valuation, but the rate we’re asking for stays the same,” the superintendent said.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for technology in education has been brought to the forefront, and Sanchez said the mill levy funds can help the district stay up on changing technology needs.

“We were able to purchase a lot of equipment this last year using federal funds, but that equipment does eventually wear out. We also need to purchase and lease software licenses, which can be very expensive,” he said.

The use of the mill levy proceeds is focused on student needs, Sanchez said, including large items such as activity vehicles to transport students to and from events down to smaller items, like air filters to meet COVID-19 safe standards.

“Things like replacement bulbs for the projectors we use in the classrooms. The life span of technology is five, maybe eight years. It doesn’t seem very long,” he said. “There are all these things that impact what happens in the classroom.

“The funding can be used for every-day upgrades and maintenance of facilities. It can be the smallest thing, like replacing a light bulb, to the largest, like repairing a hail-damaged roof. A lot of things aren’t necessarily visible but they have to be taken care of.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.