There’s something important in the mail for Hobbs Municipal Schools district residents.
Ballots for the Hobbs Municipal Schools special mill levy election have or will arrived this week and HMS Superintendent Gene Strickland wants to be sure district residents keep and eye out — and vote.
“Parents, please don’t throw this away,” Strickland said. “Registered voters don’t throw this away. We need you to vote.”
This election marks the first time voters have been asked to decide a mill levy quespletely by mail.
ACCORDING TO AN INFORMATIONAL flier supplied by the school district, a 2018 overhaul of the state’s election laws requires certain special elections — including mill levy elections — be held by mail. School board and other measure election may still be decided on regular November ballots.
The question in front of voters for this special election are renewal of current, two- and four-mill tax levies, which fund a variety of ongoing maintenance and operations projects throughout the district, Strickland said. Annually, the levies generate about $6 million for the district, funding everything from technology to air conditioning and flooring to furniture, he said. Levy dollars also funded approximately $3 million in repairs, maintenance and upgrades this summer across the district.
“Campus technology, it’s all funded by mill levy dollars,” Strickland said. “The new ZeroEyes (campus security system), 100 percent funded through mill levies.
“Those don’t happen without that mill levy money,” he said. “And this is not a new tax. It’s 100 percent a renewal” of existing levies.
And it costs mere pennies a day per property owner to raise that $6 million. For a $100,000 property, for example, the cost is $16.50 per month, or about 55-cents per day, Strickland said.
“You can’t go out and get a coke anymore for 55-cents,” he said. “That’s roughly what it breaks out to and it generates $6 million per year for the district, that we use across the entire district.”
If voters approve the mill levy renewal, individual taxes will not increase. If the levies are defeated, however, taxes on that hypothetical $100,000 property could decrease by that same $16.50 per month.
Property owners across the district are being asked to keep their eyes out for the ballots as they arrive in the mail, and to fill them out and return them via enclosed, postage-paid envelope, by Aug. 24.
The current two- and four-mill levies expire in September, according to an informational flier provided by the school district.
THE HOBBS MUNICIPAL SCHOOL DISTRICT encompasses more than just the city of Hobbs, Strickland said. The district stretches from Lawrence Road on the north end south to South Loop Road just outside Eunice, he said, and from the New Mexico-Texas state line on the east all the way to the Lea-Eddy county line on the west.
“That’s our school district,” Strickland said. “Any student who lives within those boundaries will attend Hobbs schools and any property owner who lives in those boundaries would be a voter in this election” and would be assessed the total six-mill levy.
The average age of HMS district campuses is 60 years, he noted. Discounting the newest campuses in the district, that average for the so-called “legacy” campuses increases to 70 years old. Mill levy funding helps those seven-decade old facilities provide a 21st century education.
“Our maintenance team does a phenomenal job,” Strickland said. “They can’t do that without these mill levies. They cannot provide that safe, clean, secure environment for education to occur.”
Maintaining facilities every year costs a fraction of what it would take to build all-new school buildings. And “paying it forward” for a future generation of students is the responsibility of everyone, Strickland said.
Opponents of the levies like to argue they don’t have students in the district right now, he noted. But “the greatest response to that is, at some point, all of us will be in that boat that we don’t have a kid in the school district. What I’m thankful for is, when I was a kid in the school district, there were taxpayers who funded those mill levies then.
“When I don’t have a student in the district, that’s my moral responsibility to say ‘I’m providing for that future,’” Strickland said. “We recognize face-to-face instruction is the largest contribution we can make to the future through our students. It’s a responsibility to fund those opportunities for our kids.”