On February 3rd we are asking the voters of Dona Ana County to approve two bond questions. The first question lowers our previously approved debit service bond from 1.0 mill to .75 mills. The debt service bond allows the DACC Advisory Board to authorize the sale of bonds for capital improvements. The second question asks voters to approve a .25 mill increase to our existing 1.0 mill levy. Funding resulting from our mill levy is used to fund operations. Approval of the two questions will result in a 2 mill tax rate. This tax rate is identical to the 2 mill tax rate that has been in place since well before 2009, the last time DACC went to the voters to approve a debit service bond question. The approval of the bond and mill levy questions will NOT raise taxes for the citizens of Dona Ana County.
The voters in Dona Ana County have generously supported DACC for many years by voting affirmatively in past bond elections. The previous 1 mill debt service bonds have resulted in capital projects that have made possible the East Mesa campus along with the Hatch, Gadsden, Chaparral, and Sunland Park Learning Centers. Previous debt service bonds have funded computer replacements, facilities maintenance, and new technologies to ensure that our facilities and technology are current affording our students career and technical training on state of the art equipment.
Despite the addition of several new buildings, DACC maintains a ratio of square footage per full time student that is the lowest in the state. While we have been efficient and good stewards of tax dollars, the result is that our facilities are heavily utilized; therefore required maintenance needs arise more quickly. Additionally, our Central Campus at NMSU is in dire need of upgrades to ensure energy efficiencies and long term structural integrity. These maintenance upgrades and structural modifications will afford us the opportunity to discuss future programming needs. While the structural needs and efficiencies have been determined, the programing needs have not been determined and will be determined, if the mill passes, through a process involving faculty, staff and administrators at DACC.
The debt service bond would also allow us to expand the Workforce Center in Las Cruces and move advanced technology programs to one location. The vacated space on the Central Campus resulting from the move of advanced technology programs to the Workforce Center will allow opportunities for expanding existing career and technical programs at the Central Campus and possibly expanding our Arts programs consistent with community and workforce needs. Additional considerations include adding classrooms to the Gadsden Learning Center to expand course offerings to students in the South County who are unable to travel to Las Cruces. This expansion would allow us to consider offering degree and certificate programs at that location. The last capital project includes funding site improvements to the East Mesa Campus. This involves the relocation of the electrical lines to allow for further expansion of the campus when needed and the creation of a second entrance off Sonoma Ranch Blvd. to improve traffic patterns entering and leaving the campus.
If maintenance is a significant need, then why would we consider lowering our requested debit service bond from 1 mill to .75 mills? Our Facilities Master Plan (available in SharePoint) sets forth the institution’s facility needs and priorities. Based upon our Facilities Master Plan, we determined that lowering our debit service request was appropriate and would not compromise our facility priorities and needs. Lowering our debit service request allows us to seek an increase in our operational mill of .25 to help address our declining tuition revenue which is directly related to decreases in enrollment and increases in dual enrollment offerings without raising the total current tax rate. (Note: offering fewer dual enrollment courses does not result in a direct correlation of increasing our tuition generating courses. On-campus/learning center enrollment and dual enrollment are two very different populations with different course offering needs; therefore, changes in one does not necessary result in changes in the other. Dual enrollment courses do generate revenue from the HED – Higher Education Department – funding formula, however not sufficient enough revenue to offset the cost of offering the courses and supporting the students).
Should our request for a .25 mill be approved, the result would be an increase in operating revenue of approximately $940,000 based upon tax valuations in the County. The additional operating revenue would off-set the present loss in tuition revenue based upon declining enrollment. Consequently, approval of a .25 mill levy will help us to maintain current and vita operations, services, and programs to our students during a decline in the enrollment cycles. Additional operational funding will also allow us to examine ways to meet workforce training and development needs in sales, transportation, skilled trades and the health care sector just to name a few.
DACC operations, services and programing are funded based upon revenue from tuition, the State of New Mexico and the mil levy. The Adult Basic Education and the Small Business Development Center receive funding from grants and the state and these funds support these vital programs. Additionally, our career and technical education programs receive support from the Carl Perkins Grant. All of these funding sources are essential for us to continue to carry out our mission of being a responsive and accessible learning-centered community college that provides educational opportunities to a diverse community of learners in support of workforce and economic development.