Steve Stone Graphic
The special mill levy election for Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell calls for property owners to pay to keep the school operating.
Some say the added tax is too steep. But others say the extra money to keep the quality of programs and students in the community is worth the extra money.
“The Roswell campus is unique in our state,” said former state Sen. Tim Jennings. “They offer the most complex programs — more complex than any other university or any other community college in our state.”
Chaves County voters will be asked at a special election Feb. 4 to decide whether to establish a mill levy tax rate at $3 for each $1,000 of net taxable value of all property within the district. The tax would be indefinite.
Early voting has started. Voters can cast ballots at the county complex, 1 St. Mary’s Place, or the ENMU-R campus. Absentee voters can write to the Chaves County Clerk’s Office for a ballot.
ENMU-R President John Madden will hold public meetings before the election. He said there was no way to predict how many voters will turnout. But, the result will determine the fate of whether the college can continue to offer its vast array of programs.
“This is really a referendum on, ‘Do you want all of these programs, or don’t you?’” Madden said. “We’re not going to go away, we simply aren’t going to do everything we’re doing.”
If passed, the mill levy is expected to bring in $2.1 million per year for the college.
For a homeowner of a $100,000 home, once the current building construction bond retires this year, the proposed mill levy would add $66.67 next year. The total paid to ENMU-R would be $96.57.
This money would pay to keep the school running at current levels, Madden said.
“We think that in order to preserve these programs and stabilize this institution, that’s a bargain,” Madden said.
The majority of the programs in question are health-related. Of all classes at ENMU-R, 44 percent are complex classes, such as the nursing program.
In Hobbs, New Mexico Junior College offers 33 percent of its total classes as complex courses. In Carlsbad, that total is 28 percent. Clovis students are only offered 21 percent complex courses.
“They’ve been able to put together a program by looking outside the box of the needs of the people in the state and try to solve them,” Jennings said. “Our college is top notch. We need to recognize their excellence.”
Some of the programs include Commercial Driver’s License certification, air traffic control, automotive technology, aviation maintenance, fire science, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, private pilot training and welding.
Health programs include community paramedic training, dental assisting, dental hygiene, emergency medical services certification, medical assisting, nursing and nursing assisting and pharmacy technology.
The college has been reducing staff and doing its share, Jennings said.
Some of the programs, such as the program to teach students with special needs a trade to become office aids or assistants, help them get meaningful jobs, he said. The nursing program has also shown results that have been the highest in the state at times.
“For us to not support it, I think, would be a real tragedy,” Jennings said.
Several local business owners hire graduates from ENMU-R programs. According to the college, the county gets $18.2 million in income from its operations. Added income due to ENMU-Roswell’s student skills amounts to $60.5 million.
Danny Fulkerson, owner of Fulkerson Services, a heating and air conditioning company, said he’s hired several past students.
“They come to us with a good base of education and training from the HVAC program,” Fulkerson said. “That gives them a little base of knowledge about the fields and we give them hands-on training and they can learn and grow, which is a benefit to us.”
Don Poling, fixed operations director for Krumland Auto Group, has four graduates from the auto mechanics program working for him and has an order for one more, he said.
“These kids are good kids. I’m pretty happy with them,” Poling said.
Superior Ambulance tries to pick up as many students as they can, said Armando Lucero, regional manager, and former ENMU-R graduate.
“They know the area and they need the jobs,” Lucero said. “That program’s been going for a long time. At one point, it was one of the best programs in the state. I’m from out here and I went to this school. They still put out quality students here. They’re quality EMTs. It would be beneficial to keep it open.”