After the traumatic events of Tuesday, many people may have forgotten that this week they have the opportunity to vote on the mill levy for Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell.
Voting machines have been set up at the Joseph R. Skeen building, 1 St. Mary’s Place, and one at the ENMU-R campus in Roswell. Absentee voters need to write to Chaves County Clerk’s office to obtain a ballot. For those who prefer to wait, the vote polling places will take place on Feb. 4.
ENMU-R President John Madden spoke passionately about the levy. “There’s a lot of misinformation. A lot of people think this is a bond issue, but it is a mill levy. A bond is usually for a specific purpose, such as the construction of the new building. Mills cover operational costs.”
For the private citizen, the millage rate is synonymous with the property tax rate.
“Millage” is based on a Latin word that means “thousandth.” So 1 mill is equivalent to 1/1000th. The current millage rate in Chaves County is 1 mill; however, this 1 operational mill goes directly to state government for public school. Institutions of higher education don’t see a cent of this money.
“We are retiring the old bond issue. The projects, the Campus Union and the Health Sciences Center, have come in early and under budget. That is good news.”
The current property tax rate, including the bond, is $64.40 per $100,000 value. Once the bond issue is retired, the property tax rate will go down to $29.90 per $100,000. With the additional millages, if voted in, the rate would be $96.57 per $100,000. Madden said this represents an increase in property tax rate of about $32 per year for a $100,000 property.
The mill levy, if voted in, will pay salaries, utilities and basic maintenance costs. “We have cut the workforce by one-third in the past few years,” said Madden.
“We provide a benefit for the community. People see it every day. The nurses in the hospitals may be an ENMU-R graduate. Their auto mechanic may have been trained in our school,” Madden said.
He also discussed the real benefit for students from low-income families.
“Many of our graduates are first generation graduates, meaning they are the first member of the family to attend college. The college changes families,” said Donna Oracion, director of program development.
ENMU-R raises the hopes and expectations of the entire family. Those that come after will make sure their children get a college education. ENMU-R also provides a GED program for students who were not able to graduate from high school, and he said for some families this may be the first member of the family that ever graduated from high school.
“We are the most community oriented. Our students are top notch. We have the greatest variety of programs of any college in the entire state. Many people have a favorite program — the air center, hospital studies, alternative energy programs. Without this millage, we will have to cut programs,” Madden said. He listed other programs, including the commercial drivers’ program and welding classes.
The loss of programs could result in businesses having to bring in talent from out of state.
“The benefits of the institution go far beyond the student in the classroom,” he explained.
In addition, depending on the program, students may have to go far away to receive their education. Even the nearest college can provide no replacement.
“Portales has no nursing program, no automotive program,” he said.
Madden assured the community that ENMU-R would not be closing its doors, but the amount of services and the classes they can offer will be drastically reduced.
“We’re not going out of business, but if we eliminate a program, it’s gone for good.”