With early voting over and the upcoming Nov. 8 election day rapidly approaching, the University of New Mexico anticipates the results of general obligation bond 3, which would allocate $89.2 million to UNM and a total $215 million to higher education across the state for capital projects if passed.
A general obligation bond is money borrowed by the government to fund capital projects such as new facilities and improvements to old buildings and infrastructure. Bonds are paid for by the state and its property owners through property taxes — however, G.O. bonds do not cause an increase in property taxes.
Every two years when general obligation bonds come up for a vote, higher education institutions make requests for funding on “bricks-and-mortar” projects before the legislature approves some or all of the requested funding for the bond, according to UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair.
With the money on this year’s ballot, UNM’s main campus allocations would go toward building a new fine arts facility that would house programs across the College of Fine Arts, along with upgrades to the UNM Children’s Psychiatric Center.
“(UNM administrators) look for the projects that would have the largest impact, on not just UNM, but the local community and state. And so, our two projects, center for fine arts and the children’s psychiatric center were the two that would have the biggest impact at this point,” Blair said.
A new fine arts facility, called the Center for Collaborative Arts and Technology, has been in preliminary talks for at least ten years, according to Harris Smith, dean of the College of Fine Arts. He said the project was bumped up on the list of UNM’s priorities after two other projects received significant private donations, thus putting it on the table for a bond vote.
“Our facilities average 60 years old, so if we want to continue to train our students, retain our students and make them as competitive as possible, we need the facilities and equipment and technology that’s current and up to date … And then if we want the best faculty, we need facilities that match the needs of the most talented faculty,” Smith said.
An updated concert hall for the music program is high on the priority list for the facility, as the program has run into issues with accreditation due to a lack of performance spaces, according to Smith. They also want new makerspaces in the same vein as the Art, Resource, Technology and Science Lab which would be both updated and on campus. Updates for the film program would also be prioritized in light of the many production company commitments coming into the state, according to Smith.
“It’ll create a great type of arts district if we have this facility right there on Central Avenue and it’ll bring it a little more to life because … there’s around 300 public performances that take place between all the fine arts departments,” Smith said.
While a location has not been finalized, parking lot A has been suggested as a potential location, with a new parking structure being built in its place near lot B, according to Smith.
The Children’s Psychiatric Center project, which has also been gestating for a while, would create a new facility to accommodate for the increased demand for youth psychiatric care as well as an update for the different standards of care since the building’s creation nearly 60 years ago.
“(They) not only need to expand their footprints, but the needs of children and adolescents in psychiatric care have changed since that center was established. And so, they’re looking to expand that footprint to accommodate the needs of New Mexico’s children who need that behavioral (healthcare),” Blair said.
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Through the bond, $36 million dollars will be allocated for a facility with 52 bed spaces as well as an intensive care unit, according to an article from UNM Health Sciences Newsroom.
UNM houses the only children’s emergency psychiatric unit in the state. The building typically houses around 35 patients though it only has accommodations for around 25. The spaces were also meant to accommodate patient stays of up to one year; currently, a typical stay is around 10 days, according to Newsroom.
“It’s not uncommon at CPC, because it’s almost 60 years old, that we run into issues with appropriate heating or cooling in the units, or leaks, leaving our patients without some basic comforts,” UNM behavioral health service administrator Rodney McNease said in the Newsroom article.
Should the bond not be passed, Blair said that UNM may either wait two years for the next bond to go up for vote or look for other means of funding to start the projects. However, higher education bonds have historically been generally successful and tend to pass, according to Blair.
“People do believe in higher education; they believe in the value of providing the best facilities and centers for our students. It really is about our students, and in this case, it’s about healthcare as well,” Blair said.
Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle