City officials pleased with Legislature session
While Portales officials didn’t get all the money they wanted for street repairs, they did walk away from the Legislative session pleased with funds they received for their Main Street program and equipment.
And the city won’t be the only group in town to feel the benefits from the session that ended on Thursday. Assuming the governor signs the capital outlay bill, the school district got funding for improvements to the high school’s performing arts center and it looks likely the county will get an amendment passed that will make it eligible for $100,000 annually.
The city and county together will collect about $2.5 million in capital outlay money.
The city was seeking $350,000 for street improvements. More than $225,000 of those funds was being targeted to upgrade Avenue O from Lime to Spruce Street.
The city wasn’t alone in wanting money in roads. Roosevelt County officials were hoping to get $400,000 for road equipment and another $400,000 for road improvements.
Not all of the city and county’s road needs were met.
The county got:
• $100,000 for road maintainers
• $190,000 for road equipment
• $210,000 for road improvements
The city got:
• $94,000 for Avenue O improvements
• $240,000 for equipment purchases
• $100,000 for street improvements
Portales City Manager Debi Lee said she knew that streets were a top priority with residents.
Lee said she wished the city would have received money for Avenue O and a road to the Southwest Cheese plant.
Money the city received for equipment was a lifesaver.
“We haven’t been able to replace equipment in a while,” Lee said. “We are very much in need of equipment. We are very grateful for the allocations that we got. Our needs here are huge.”
Lee was particularly excited about the $85,000 the city got for its Main Street program.
“The Main Street group works wonderfully with the city,” she said. “They are making a lot of neat improvements. Main Street is going great guns. They are making some wonderful strides.”
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, was pleased with what eastern New Mexico received.
“I think we did real well,” he said. “There’s a lot of money going toward Clovis and Portales. I think overall we got some pretty substantial money allocated.”
Another major part of Portales’ life — Eastern New Mexico University — received $635,000 through capital outlay money.
“We did exceptionally well in terms of capital outlay money,” ENMU President Steve Gamble said.
Gamble said the university got $400,000 in capital outlay funds last year.
“Probably the difference is that they had more money to give out this year,” he said.
The university received funding for:
• An athletic bus
• Furniture for the communications building
• Information technology and technical infrastructure upgrades and other projects.
The good and the bad
Roosevelt County didn’t come close to getting capital outlay money it was seeking for improvements to the fairgrounds, but things do look good concerning an amendment that will have an economic impact on the county’s budget.
Officials were seeking $905,000 for improvements to the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds. Money would have gone to expand the pavilion and a new multi-purpose facility.
But lawmakers only provided the fairgrounds with $70,000 for improvements and $45,000 for special events.
While the fairgrounds funding may be a disappointment to the county, officials are still hopeful they will get an amendment made to the Small County’s Assistant Act that would provide them funds annually.
A bill that amends parts of the act passed both the House and Senate and is now on the governor’s desk. If the bill holds up, Roosevelt County will see a benefit in the form of $100,000 every year.
A bill created to increase cash allocations to small counties requires those counties having a property value topping $200 million to have three general gross-receipts taxes in place to get funds from the state.
Roosevelt County has two of the three in place, and a property value just over $200 million, leaving it ineligible for $100,000 in the past.
But the approval of an amendment to that bill would allow a county to qualify for the funds by only having two general gross-receipts taxes in place.
Building gets help
A longstanding Portales building could be getting a facelift.
Portales High School’s Performing Art Center received $245,000 for improvements through capital outlay money.
The district was seeking $250,000 for the project.
As part of the renovation project, new carpeting would be replaced, seats would be upgraded and fire resistant curtains would be hung.
The facility gets used by numerous school and community groups. The auditorium has the largest seating capacity in Roosevelt County.
The auditorium, which was built in 1971, hasn’t received a face lift in its history, officials said.
The facility is used by the school’s drama and theater departments and fine arts students.
In addition, it’s the home to numerous events throughout the year including spring and fall concerts and Christmas concerts.
The junior high and Lindsey Elementary also use it for events.
Tuition going up
Tuition will be going up next year at higher education institutions.
The state’s budget has tuition increasing by 4 percent. The increase is expected to pay for operational expenses.
But tuition at ENMU and other universities will be much higher than 4 percent.
The 4 percent figure is a number that the state requires institutions to raise tuition by. It’s not necessarily the increase that the university will use.
ENMU’s President Gamble said he imagined tuition could rise as high as 7 percent.
Welcome those Texans
What once looked like a funding nightmare for ENMU and other universities still doesn’t look great, but a lot better than what officials once anticipated.
Funding for the 135-mile program, which allows students who live within 135 miles of New Mexico to get in-state tuition rates will be cut by about $1 million statewide.
Originally, $2 million in cuts were proposed to the program.
ENMU’s piece of that cut would amount to $190,000. ENMU plans to still offer the program. It will eat the cost of the cuts to the program.
Gamble and other university presidents maintained throughout the session that the program was a benefit to the state because Texans who came to New Mexico through the program spent more money here than it costs to educate them.
ENMU Student Body President Bob Cornelius said getting Texans to come to ENMU is important for the state and university.
“It is the hope of Eastern to give the students of west Texas the opportunity to seek an alternate source of education,” he said.
Cornelius said the program helps the university compete against Texas.
“With the 135-mile rule in place, Eastern can compete against Texas Tech, West Texas A&M, and South Plains College for these students,” he said. “The low cost of in-state tuition at Eastern, as well as our fine learning facilities, help to attract these students from larger universities in Texas."
Eastern New Mexico University officials are looking forward to November.
That’s when they hope to be one of many higher education institutions statewide that would receive millions of dollars worth of funding for projects through the general obligation bond. The bond will be voted on during an election in November.
The $120 million bond would spend $98 million on higher education. ENMU’s piece of that pie would amount to $13 million.
“The whole Eastern New Mexico University system does very well in this,” Gamble said. “Our three campuses would all do very well.”
The House approved a measure a day before the session concluded that OKs money and projects in the bond. The bill now goes to the governor.
On top of ENMU’s list for the bond is a new science building. The building is the No. 1 priority of the statewide bond.
The university would get $7 million for the new building.
The Portales campus would also get money for:
• Numerous campuswide infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to lighting and sidewalks. $500,000
• Transformation to digital conversion for the university’s television station, KENW. $760,000
• Improvements for informational technology.