Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Property tax renewal passes easily


February 13, 2019

Voters on Feb. 5 easily approved the Tucumcari school district's request to renew its two-mill capital-improvement property tax during Quay County's first mail-in election.

A total of 858 voters approved of the measure, almost 69 percent of the total. A total of 393 voted against it.

What surprised - and somewhat worried - some supporters of the local two-mill was the mail-in election's relatively high turnout of 29 percent.

"We were pleased, very pleased, when we got the news," Tucumcari Public Schools Superintendent Aaron McKinney said of the two-mill's passage. "We were a little nervous with how many voters did go out. But we tried to get the word out about the two-mill as much as we could, and we must have done that."

McKinney said he also was thankful after learning voters in other New Mexico school districts - including Albuquerque, Aztec, Bloomfield and Loving - rejected their two-mill questions.

A total of 1,251 Quay County residents voted out of 4,411 eligible registered voters in the school district, Quay County Clerk Ellen White reported.

White said such elections historically had prompted a turnout of only 200 to 300 voters. The last one, she said, produced a turnout of about 180.

The Local Election Act, passed into law by the New Mexico Legislature last year, consolidated nonpartisan elections and prompted Quay County's inaugural mail-in election for the two-mill, the only issue on the ballot.

"The purpose of this mail-ballot election was to increase voter turnout and make the public aware there was an impending tax, and the law did just that," White said.

The total number of undeliverable ballots was 709, about 16 percent of the total. White said other mail-in elections in the state reported undeliverable rates of 25 percent.

White said she saw few problems with Quay County's mail-in election.

"We had a few ballots where we had to call the voters to come in and sign them," she said, "but for the most part, I'm overwhelmed by the response. I'm happy with the results, and it went pretty smoothly."

White reported Friday the election will cost the school district $10,281.15, plus an estimated $300 for a legal advertisement. McKinney said in October the school district's preliminary estimate for holding the election would be about $5,500, plus 47 cents for each piece of nondelivered mail, which totaled about 700 for the Feb. 5 election.

"It's very costly, which is upsetting for the school district having to pay so much for the election," White said. "But I'm hoping some new legislation coming up will help all the schools in New Mexico and special districts get their mill levies and bond questions on track with the normal election cycle."

The two-mill property tax, which covers the tax years of 2019 to 2024, generates about $220,000 a year for the school district. The tax can be used to remodel buildings, technology upgrades, improving school grounds, buying computer equipment and software and purchasing activity vehicles.


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