Both the Belen and Los Lunas school districts are asking voters for their support of bonds on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The Belen Consolidated Schools is seeking $10 million, while Los Lunas Schools are asking voters to approve $22 million.
Both bonds will be paid back using property taxes but neither of which will increase tax rates.
Belen Consolidated Schools
The majority of the bond, if approved, will go towards the rebuild of H.T. Jaramillo Elementary School.
“The vision is not to knock down the existing building,” said Belen Schools Superintendent Diane Vallejos. “We plan to turn it into the district’s Teacher Resource Center.”
There is already a resource center just southwest of the HTJ campus, but relocating to the old elementary school building would allow for more space for teacher trainings and other meetings, Vallejos said.
“The current building has space for about a dozen people at a time. It’s just really small,” Vallejos said.
During discussions of replacing the elementary school, community members were upset at the idea of demolishing the building, the superintendent said.
“We understand; it’s a part of us,” she said. “This is the fifth or sixth generation of students to go there. It has a place in our hearts.”
The bond on the November ballot, if approved, will provide about $8 million for the rebuild of the school, which is the district’s portion of the estimated $17-$19 million total for the project.
The remainder of the money will come from the state’s Public Schools Finance Authority.
Proceeds from the bond will also pay for instructional technology upgrades and district-wide facility improvements.
Vallejos said district IT staff estimated 20 to 30 percent of student and teacher computers need to be replaced.
“They cannot be upgraded any further,” Vallejos said.
Other upgrades include enhancing WiFi access at various schools since many buildings are made from materials that aren’t easily penetrated by a wireless signal. There are also security projects that are technology based, such as keycard systems and remote control access points that need to be finished.
The superintendent noted the funds allocated for computer and technology upgrades won’t be spent on administrative systems. There are facilities across the district that need roof repairs and heating and cooling upgrades, she said.
The district still has money from the $16 million bond approved in 2016, which has been used, in conjunction with funds from PSFA, for the new Rio Grande Elementary School and a system rebuild at Dennis Chavez Elementary.
Vallejos said PSFA allocates money for two types of projects — a full replace and rebuild such as RGE or what is called a system rebuild, which includes projects such as HVAC replacement, new windows and doors and paving.
The district has to contribute its own money, typically from bond sales, to these projects. Replacing the HVAC and boiler systems at Dennis Chavez Elementary was a system rebuild funded by bonds and PSFA money, the superintendent said.
The equipment was actually removed from RGE before it was demolished, since it was still fairly new, and transferred to Dennis Chavez Elementary.
Projects completed in the last several years in the Belen district using bond funds include Rio Grande Elementary, Family School, the Belen High School natatorium and Central Elementary School.
“I truly believe that as we build our schools, we build our community,” Vallejos said.
She pointed out the BHS natatorium has supported programs such as the village of Los Lunas summer recreation program and the Los Lunas Schools swim program.
“The bond truly does support the community,” the superintendent said. “I can only ask that people vote.”
Los Lunas Schools
The proposed Los Lunas Schools four-year $22 million General Obligation Bond is up for renewal in the upcoming election.
The GO Bond maintains current tax levies, so there in no tax increase.
Los Lunas Schools Chief Financial Officer Claire Cieremans said every school in the district will receive upgrades to its site over the next four years.
“Every year, we will sell roughly $5,500,000 worth of bonds to complete various projects throughout the district,” Cieremans said during a recent school board meeting.
Projects include upgrades to safety and security, playgrounds, athletic fields, lighting and flooring, a redesign of the Katherine Gallegos Elementary parent drop-off parking lot and a new multi-purpose athletic complex.
“Safety and security is important; we talk about it all the time,” Cieremans said. “Things like fencing, access control, upgrading cameras — those are all priorities for every school site.”
The redesign of Katherine Gallegos Elementary’s parent drop-off parking lot is in response to added traffic down Don Pasqual Road that is causing congestion in the area during drop-off times.
The proposed new multi-purpose athletic complex will be built at Century High School, if voters approved the bond.
“We also have the multi-purpose athletic facility that we want to plan and build over the next four years, and we want that to be located at a central area where it would offer more for our students, our teams and our community can use the multi-purpose gym,” Cieremans said.
The school district was recently awarded funding through the Public School Capital Outlay Council and the Public School Facility Authority to upgrade Peralta Elementary, which will be going through a complete renovation.
The playground equipment needs regular maintenance, as do the athletic fields.
“I would say we have some of the best athletic complexes and school buildings in the state, and we are constantly looking how to improve those fields,” Cieremans said.
“Many of our athletic fields and gyms are utilized seven days a week within our community so we want to make sure we’re upgrading those now.”
Cieremans said they utilize the facility master plan and then use that list to prioritize which projects are to be completed next.
There is a list of proposed projects on the Los Lunas Schools website that includes an overview of what improvements will be made to each school site, as well as a list of completed projects from past GO Bonds.
A list of frequently asked questions regarding the bonds are also answered on the website.
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.