The “2019 Decade Plan and General Obligation Bond Program” has been released and submitted by the Mayor Tim Keller Administration to the Albuquerque City Council.
The released “2019 Decade Plan” lists over $800 million worth of taxpayer funded bond projects for the next 10 years but all the funding is not voted upon at once but voted upon in increments every two years.
“General obligation” bonds are subject to voter approval every 2 years to fund various city capital projects.
The next bond cycle up for voter approval is in November, 2019.
$127 million in projects that are part of the Decade Plan will be on the November ballot for final voter approval.
The Albuquerque Council’s “Committee of the Whole”, comprised of all 9 City Councilor’s, met to review the 10-year plan to review and consider changes.
You can read the entire 147 page “2019 Decade Plan and General Obligation Bond Program” here:
A few of the larger Keller Administration projects in the latest bond proposal include:
$13 million toward the historic Rail Yards property through 2029.
$11 million for various projects at the Albuquerque Museum over the next decade.
$7 million to a new APD southeast substation at Kathryn and San Mateo.
$7 million for a year-round homeless facility.
$5.5 million for the International District Library.
$5 million in funding for Family & Community Services Section 8 Affordable Housing.
$2.8 million for Community, Health, Social Services Centers.
$2.5 million for a new exit off I-25 to Balloon Fiesta Park.
A detailed summary and a full listing and amount of all the general bond projects that will be on the November ballot is listed below in the postscript.
A MAJOR CHANGE IN PRIORITIES
The Keller Administration has made a significant number of changes that are significantly different from the former Republican Berry Administration.
The Democrat Keller Administration’s proposed bond package devotes $37.3 million to the Department of Municipal Development for street and bridge upgrades, median landscaping, and other related work.
Almost $50 million is being proposed to be put into community facilities that includes:
$5.5 million going to International District Library to be built on the East Central property the city purchased where the old Caravan East was located for decades.
$5 million going to affordable housing projects.
$7 million to a new homeless facility.
PERMANENT YEAR-ROUND HOMELESS SHELTER
The bond package contains $7 million to build a permanent year-round homeless facility.
The city is also asking for state capital money for the project during the 2019 legislative session.
On January 23, 2017, the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey was conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs.
The 2017 survey found that 1,318 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count, which was an increase of 31 people over the 2015 PIT Count.
For 2017, 379 people self-reported as chronically homeless, which is an increase of 119 people over the 2015 PIT Count.
PIT counted 39 more people that self-reported as chronically homeless who were sheltered and 80 more people that self-report as chronically homeless who were unsheltered in 2017.
The full PIT report for Albuquerque can be read here:
Currently, the city uses the old jail 20 miles away from downtown to provide shelter to the homeless during the winter months.
The old jail facility sleeps about 325 people each night during the winter months.
The Keller Administration wants to expand operations from a winter only facility to a year-round facility.
The city reports that it will cost $4.5 million a year to run a year-round facility.
However, using the existing facility on the west side and transporting people to and from the west side shelter accounts for about a quarter of the cost of running the facility.
RAIL YARD PROPERTY REDEVELOPMENT
In 2007, the city bought the Albuquerque Rail Yards site for about $8.5 million.
The historic and vacant Albuquerque Rail Yards are within one mile of the Downtown area located south of Downtown between the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods.
The Albuquerque Rail Yards has 18 buildings still standing and erected between 1915 and 1925 and include four major maintenance facilities built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
The city has upgraded one building, the blacksmith shop, where the Rail Yards Market Place has taken place on weekends each summer since 2014.
Last September, Mayor Tim Keller announced he wants to ramp up plans to reinvent the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards to transform the city-owned property “an amenity where thousands can gather year-round.”
The Keller Administration has severed the private development contract with California-based Samitaur Constructs that was the master developer for the site putting the city back in control of the development process.
In order to create a tourist, draw the city wants to begin “remediation efforts” and activate a second building at the Albuquerque Rail Yards.
Activating a second building will accommodate additional vendors and potentially be a big tourist draw according to Mayor Keller.
The $13 million in general obligation bond money for the rail yards includes $5.5 million for redevelopment efforts at the a 27.3-acre property in the Barelas neighborhood.
The city is also seeking $15 million in state money from the New Mexico Legislature for the redevelopment work.
Any significant rehabilitation will require abating lead-based paint and asbestos in the existing buildings and removing contaminants from the soil
The city estimates that cleaning up just the northern half of the 12.3-acre site will cost the city at least $4.2 million and that a complete property remediation could run as much as $8 million to $9 million.
Only estimates can be given for clean up because significant rehabilitation will require abating lead-based paint and asbestos in the existing buildings and removing oil contaminants from the soil.
Not until the remediation work starts and is completed can the final cost be calculated.
Because of the nature of the work of soil clean up, no time frame can be given when the clean up will be completed.
The removing oil and hazardous waste contaminants from the soil at the rail yards is very problematic cost wise.
The Keller Administration has made no mention of any efforts, or if it has taken steps, if available, to secure federal funding and help from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the cleanup efforts.
CITY COUNCILLORS RAISE CONCERNS
During the first “Committee of the Whole” meeting on the 10-year bond plan, city councilors had questions concerning how to spend the bond monies listed in the Keller Administration 10-year plan.
Several councilors asked questions over the timing of funding for projects, especially those involving drainage projects.
There is no “long-range funding” for all the needed drainage projects in the city.
City Councilor Isaac Benton wants the city to finally build a permanent replacement for the temporary drainage pond at Lomas and Broadway saying:
“That project in particular, I feel like we’ve got to figure out a way to get moving on it, and not put that out to another bond cycle.”
The City Council has power to totally reshape and change the Keller Administration 10-year plan to conform to their own priorities for their individual districts.
On February 22, the City Council “Committee of the Whole” will again discuss and debate the 10-year bond program and make amendment to the final resolution to be voted upon by the public.
A vote of the full bond package could come by the end of February at a regular city council meeting.
Public comment is always mandated during the City Council meetings.
APS BOND AND TAX LEVY
On February 5, 2019, voters overwhelmingly rejected Albuquerque Public Schools’ (APS) two mill levy questions and a proposed bond that would have raised real property tax bills by 5%.
According to media reports, all three questions on the ballot failed by wide margins.
Had all three initiatives past, they would have generated $900 million for APS over the next 6 years to help execute its full capital master plan which included $190 million over 10 years to maintain APS current facilities.
The first APS mill levy was money earmarked for maintenance of existing schools and it was a continuation of the current tax rate.
APS operated 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools and the average age of the schools is in excess of 50 years.
The failure to pass the first mill levy will devastate the maintenance efforts at many of the older schools and APS will be forced to seek additional funding for maintenance sooner rather than later.
APS is now considering placing the mill levy for maintenance of existing school facilities again on the November ballot which means it will be competing with the city’s general obligation bonds for approval.
CITY COUNCIL HAS SNEAKY WAY TO BYPASS VOTERS
On January 2, 2017 the Albuquerque Journal reported that the Albuquerque City Council, including Pat Davis, Diane Gibson, Ike Benton, Ken Sanchez and Republicans Don Harris, Brad Winter, and Trudy Jones voted to borrow over $63 million dollars over two years using revenue bonds to build pickle ball courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing the voters.
The $65 million dollars was borrowed with the Albuquerque City Councilors voting to use revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects they wanted.
There’s no need for an election if seven of nine councilors agree to authorize the use of revenue bonds.
You can read the full story here:
Revenue bonds were favored by the former Republican Mayor and the City Council because they could pick and choose what to fund bypassing the complicated requirements for the traditional obligation bond program where policies require certain percentages of the program to be dedicated for specific purposes, such as energy conservation and public art.
The use of revenue bonds shifts money out of the city’s operating budget and into big capital projects and the debt is repaid with gross receipts taxes used for essential services.
General obligation bonds require voter approval, a shorter borrowing period and a lengthy planning process which is not the case with revenue bonds.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is truly amazing how the Albuquerque City Council, especially the likes of Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton, is expressing concerns on how to spend the $127 million in bond monies and what should be submitted for a public vote for approval.
Seven of the 9 existing City Councilors are the same fools that voted to fund the disastrous $130 ART Bus Project as well as their own pet capital projects with the use of revenue bonds.
The 7 City Councilors who care less what voters have to say are Democrats Pat Davis, Diane Gibson, Ike Benton, Ken Sanchez and Republicans Don Harris, Brad Winter, and Trudy Jones.
These 7 City Councilors refused to put the $130 million-dollar ART Bus project on the ballot for voter approval without questioning the project and without demanding due diligence by the Berry Administration.
Having a central homeless shelter run by the city is long overdue and should be pursued.
The number of homeless in Albuquerque continues to rise each year.
It is likely that a permanent shelter will have a real impact on removing a good portion of the homeless from the streets.
There is no doubt that the redevelopment of the historic rail yards needs to be made a top priority because of the historic significance the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway has with the city of Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico.
The $13 million in general obligation bond money for the Rail Yards is commendable and should proceed but only after all reasonable steps are exhausted to secure federal funding to help with the cleanup.
If the Albuquerque Rail Yards site soil is as contaminated as being claimed, every effort should be made to seek help from New Mexico’s Congressional delegation and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek grant funding and to use the methods and technologies used on contaminated superfund sites.
The approval of general obligations bonds by voters is where the “rubber hits the road” for voters to have a say on major projects for a growing city.
General obligation bonds provide funding for essential services such as police and fire protection but also funding for projects that contribute to a city’s quality of life, such as museums and libraries.
From police and fire department equipment needs, street maintenance and improvements, public parks and recreation projects, bus and public transit priorities, libraries and museums, social services to the homeless and poor and community facilities are all funded by the general obligation bonds being proposed.
After voters overwhelmingly rejected the Albuquerque Public Schools’ (APS) two mill levy and proposed bond, Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque City Council need to be prepared to “step up their game” and campaign hard and make sure the public is fully educated on the general obligation bond initiative so it will pass in November.
It does not take a political rocket scientist to figure out that voters in November will in essence be asked to decide between building a homeless shelter and cleaning up the Albuquerque Rail Yards versus providing funding to maintain and repair APS public schools.
Public schools need tax funding for maintenance and repairs as much as the city needs general obligation bond funding for capital improvement projects but it is not a sure bet that voters will go along with both on the same ballot.
What was very disappointing is that Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller took no position on, did not endorse, and was nowhere to be found on any of the 3 APS ballot measures and now the city may be competing with APS for voter support of a tax levy to repair the schools.
When Keller was running for Mayor, he advocated city taxpayer funding for afterschool programs and city security funding for the schools.
The city and APD provides for police security at the schools in addition to APS’s own police force.
Not at all surprising is that Keller did find the time to go to Santa Fe and have a photo op with students to promote gun purchase background checks and said nothing about the $20 million included in the APS special election needed by APS for school security upgrades in response to the rash of incidents of gun violence on school grounds across the country.
No one should forget that Mayor Tim Keller himself broke a campaign promise not to raise gross receipts taxes unless there was a public vote.
Keller signed a $55 million a year tax increase with no public vote, but he was nowhere to be found when it came to the APS initiatives.
Mayor Keller, the Albuquerque City Council and the APS School Board and APS Administration need to confer with each other and come up with a game plan to ensure they are all successful.
If the general obligation bond package does not pass in November, the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council need to be held accountable and more importantly be prevented from reverting to the old and very bad financing scheme of revenue bonds to get what they want and ignore the public.
POSTSCRIPT SUMMARY ON 2019 DECADE PLAN AND GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND PROGRAM
When placed on the ballot municipal election ballot for consideration, the bond projects will be grouped by general obligation bond purpose to vote upon.
The total general obligation bond requested and that will be placed on the November 2019 ballot for approval is $127,000,000 dollars.
The general obligation bond summary for the specific areas of funding requested are as follows:
Department of Municipal Development, Streets $37,275,000
Department of Municipal Development, Storm Drainage $5,600,000
Parks & Recreation $8,065,000
Albuquerque Fire Rescue $1,500,000
Albuquerque Police Department $5,000,000
ABQ Ride/Transit $3,100,000
Animal Welfare $800,000
Cultural Services – Balloon Museum $250,000
Cultural Services – Community Events $370,000
Cultural Services – Library $8,600,000
Department of Municipal Development – Facilities & Energy Management $8,325,000
Environmental Health $200,000
Family & Community Services $17,200,000
Finance & Administrative Services $4,000,000
Planning – Administration $2,125,000
Planning – MRA $6,470,000
Senior Affairs $500,000
Technology & Innovation Services $1,000,000
Total Community Facilities $49,840,000
Council-Neighborhood Set-Aside Program $9,000,000
3% for Energy Conservation Program $3,810,000
2% for Open Space Land Acquisition $2,540,000
1% for each Bond Purpose-Public Art $1,270,000
TOTAL GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND REQUESTED: $127,000,000
The Keller Administration is proposing the following specific projects and amounts be placed on the 2019 November Two-year General Obligation Bond ballot:
Reconstruct Major Streets: $2,500,000
Reconstruct Major Intersections: $2,500,000
ADA Sidewalk Improvements: $400,000
Major Paving Rehab: $4,500,000
Intersection Signalization $1,600,000
Federal Mandated Traffic Sign Replacement and Markings: $500,000
Bridge Repair $1,000,000
Safety and Intersection Improvements: $1,000,000
Neighborhood Traffic Management $400,000
Advance Right of Way Acquisition (Streets) $500,000 5
Pavement Signs and Markings $4,000,000
Median and Interstate Landscaping $6,000,000
Westside Boulevard Widening $5,000,000
Balloon Fiesta Park Slip Ramp $2,500,000
Tijeras Bridge Replacement $1,500,000
Zuni Road Improvements $200,000
2nd Street $1,400,000 12 Trails and Bikeways (5% Mandate) $1,775,000
Total Department of Municipal Development Street Programs: $37,275,000
Stormwater Quality MS4 Permit Compliance (EPA) $2,000,000
Storm Drain and Pump Station Rehab $800,000
Advanced Planning and Engineering $300,000
Marble Arno Detention Basin/Future Pump Station $2,000,000
Near Heights SD Rehab $500,000
Total Department of Municipal Development Storm Drainage: $5,600,000
PARKS & RECREATION
Park Irrigation System Renovation $2,000,000
Pool Renovation $500,000
Park Playground Equipment $500,000
Balloon Fiesta Improvements $500,000
Open Space Bosque Restoration $250,000
Parks – Shade Structures $1,015,000
Park Management/Construction Crews Equipment $600,000
Park Forestry $300,000
Park Safety $500,000
Park Development $1,000,000
Daniel Webster Children’s Park, Phase 2 ADA Accessibility $400,000
Neighborhood Park Renovation $500,000
TOTAL PARKS & RECREATION: $8,065,000
ALBUQUERQUE FIRE RESCUE
Apparatus Rehabilitation and Replacement $1,000,000
Facility Renovation and Rehabilitation $500,000
Total Albuquerque Fire Rescue $1,500,000
APD Technology and Equipment $1,000,000
Renovation and Repair APD Facilities $500,000
Southeast Area Command $3,500,000
Total Police $5,000,000
ABQ RIDE AND TRANSIT
Revenue and Support Vehicles Replacement/Expansion $3,000,000
Transit Technology $100,000
TOTAL ABQ RIDE AND TRANSIT $3,100,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/ANIMAL WELFARE
Animal Shelter Rehabilitation $600,000
West Side Veterinary Clinic Rehabilitation $200,000
Total Animal Welfare $800,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND CULTURAL SERVICES – BALLOON MUSEUM
Balloon Museum Facilities $250,000
SUB-TOTAL CULTURAL SERVICES – Balloon Museum $250,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND CULTURAL SERVICES – COMMUNITY EVENTS
KiMo Theatre Remodel and Repair of Facilities $200,000
South Broadway Cultural Center Repair and Upgrade of Facilities $170,000
TOTAL CULTURAL SERVICES – Community Events $370,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/CULTURAL SERVICES – LIBRARY
Library Materials $3,100,000
International District Library $5,500,000
SUB-TOTAL CULTURAL SERVICES – LIBRARY $8,600,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/DMD – FACILITIES & ENERGY MANAGEMENT
City Building Construction, Improvements, and Rehabilitation $7,000,000
Roof Repair/Replacement for City Facilities $1,000,000
Civic Underground Parking Fire Suppression System Upgrades $125,000
Civic Underground Emergency Power & Evacuation System Upgrade $200,000
TOTAL FACILITIES & ENERGY MANAGEMENT $8,325,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Los Angeles Landfill Remediation $200,000
SUB-TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH $200,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/FAMILY & COMMUNITY SERVICES
Section 8 Affordable Housing $5,000,000
Homeless Facility $7,000,000
Community, Health, Social Services Centers $2,800,000
Renovation, Repair, Security & Tech. Improv, Existing FCSD Fac. $1,500,000
Health and Social Service Center Kitchens $900,000
TOTAL FAMILY & COMMUNITY SERVICES $17,200,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/FINANCE & ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
City Vehicle Replacement $4,000,000
SUB-TOTAL FINANCE & ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES $4,000,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/PLANNING – ADMINISTRATION
Land Acquisition and Exchange $500,000
Economic Development/Revitalization $1,500,000
Electronic Plan Review (ePlan) $125,000
TOTAL PLANNING – Administration $2,125,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/PLANNING – MRA
Rail Yards $5,470,000
Metropolitan Redevelopment Area $1,000,000
TOTAL PLANNING – MRA $6,470,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/SENIOR AFFAIRS
Senior Affairs Renovation/Rehabilitation ADA Compliance $500,000
SUB-TOTAL SENIOR AFFAIRS $500,000
COMMUNITY FACILITIES/TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION SERVICES
IT Infrastructure Upgrade $500,000
Network Equipment Upgrade $500,000
Total Technology & Innovation Services $1,000,000
TOTAL FOR ALL COMMUNITY FACILITIES LISTED $49,840,000
OTHER BOND REQUESTS
Council-Neighborhood Set-Aside Program $9,000,000
(Each of the 9 City Councilor’s are given $1 Million for projects in their individual city council district)
3% for Energy Conservation Program $3,810,000
2% for Open Space Land Acquisition $2,540,000
1% for each Bond Purpose-Public Art $1,270,000