Chaves County clerk’s office employees process paperwork from a polling center Tuesday night, as results arrived during the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell special mill levy election. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
The Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell mill levy increase was soundly defeated Tuesday after 66 percent of voters chose to deny the property tax increase.
A total of 3,674 of those who turned out for the special election voted against the three-mill levy, and 1,861 voted in favor.
ENMU-R President John Madden waited at the Chaves County clerk’s office as the numbers were tallied.
“It’s devastating for the campus,” Madden said. “We did not make our case. We believe what we do for this community is overwhelmingly good. And I would say for the vote count to be two-to-one, I would say the voters disagree with that.”
The university hoped to raise $2.1 million a year by increasing its mill levy rate from one to three mills to pay for operating expenses. Madden said he felt the mill levy’s election was based on whether the community wanted to continue ENMU-R’s programs.
Opponents argued against the election based on the property tax increase rate and the fact that the tax was indefinite.
“I believe tonight is a victory for Chaves County property owners and voters,” said resident Hudson Boue. “When I started this campaign, after I read the legal ad … I made it my mission to inform, the best I could, the Chaves County voters about this election. If the university wants to vilify anyone, let them come after me and not the good people who helped me and not the people who voted against them in this election. They are not scum, nor are they ‘damn liars,’ or bad people.”
State-funded institutions should look at more fair and equal methods of raising money rather than the county property owners, he said.
“I will hope they do so in the future,” Boue said.
Comments made by Madden about mill levy opponents Monday sparked feedback in the community, he said.
“I got a lot of phone calls (Tuesday),” Madden said. “I apologize to the community. There’s no reason to use that kind of language. I had a lot of calls from supporters today and a lot of detractors today. That’s fair enough. It’s kind of indicative of how the campaign has gone from day one. And it’s sad.”
Madden will today begin the process of deciding what changes would be made, he said.
“The concern we have going forward is that, what programs and, or services do we need to cut. And to the State of New Mexico, it is going to be quite devastating. I don’t think we can destroy the economy of Chaves County by cutting all these programs so we’re going to have to figure out a way to preserve as much as we can for those interests in the community.”
Voters stood in line at times to cast ballots throughout the day.
Kurt Gass, who voted at the Convention Center, said the process went smoothly. He said he supported the university but had thoughts about Madden’s strong opinions of voters.
“I think it’s very important that we have a strong university. It’s a real asset to the county. It’s important to support it … But people should be allowed to have their own opinions without being called names just because they have their own opinions,” Gass said.
Catherine Steinbach said voting was important.
“I went out to the college and that’s how I’m a nurse,” Steinbach said. “It’s important that it stays.”
16.8 percent turnout
Results by Polling Location
Church of Christ
Hagerman Town Hall
County Clerk’s Office
Roswell Convention Center
Boys & Girls Club
Early Voting (1,994)