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Las Cruces leaders outline legislative requests


SANTA FE — At a gathering Sunday morning about a mile from the state Capitol, two local municipalities, plus the Las Cruces Public Schools and New Mexico State University, delivered presentations on their priority requests for the current 30-day legislative session.

The talks were presented at the annual Las Cruces Day conference, organized by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce at the La Fonda hotel, on the city’s historic plaza.

Representatives of the city of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County as well as the school district and university spoke about efforts to win complete funding for capital projects and programs, including several that had been partially funded and, in some cases, for which complete funding was not guaranteed.

State Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, reflected on the state’s system of capital outlay and supplemental appropriations by the governor and lawmakers as “a really ineffective way for communities to be able to plan budgets around programs, and for schools to plan budgets and municipalities, because  you’re like, ‘Well, we might get this money this year.’ That’s not an effective way.  Unfortunately, it’s the system we’ve got right now. We’re trying to get away from that but it’s got long, long roots, and it’s going to take us a while to do that.”

County Manager Fernando Macias said the county’s top five capital outlay requests comprised:

  • $3 million for the next phase of drainage improvements in La Union, a community hit by disastrous floods in 2021, for which $1.5 million in state funds were previously received;
  • $5 million to complete next phase of a project construction of a flood control structure north of Highway 70, for which a previous $5 million had been committed from federal ARPA money and $6,875,000 from state funds;
  • $6 million for building and equipping a new emergency operations center which would house the county Office of Emergency Management, with $2,560,000 previously received in state and federal dollars;
  • $6 million for local matching funds toward a $31 million federal grant to plan, survey, acquire right of way and complete design for grade separation, part of a project to build an industrial road overpass in Santa Teresa;
  • $2.9 million to complete the rehabilitation of the wastewater system treating sewage for several communities south of Las Cruces, for which $5.7 million in state funds were previously received.

Macias also expressed concern about funding for a summer enrichment program that employed students at the county and saw rapidly growing participation, prompting what he said was increasing interest by other counties for similar programs and more competition for funding.

“Not only is it workforce development for our youth; to me, as a former judge, it represents almost an anti-crime initiative, when you’re putting young people to work,” he said. “They work for six weeks, 20 hours a week, and earn $3,000 during that period of time.”

Las Cruces Mayor Eric Enriquez outlined the city’s priority capital outlay requests as follows:

  • $4 million for a 7,300-square-foot mobile integrated health building that would house the city fire department’s Mobile Integrated Healthcare and Project LIGHT Mental Crisis Response programs;
  • $6 million for the city’s Support Active Transportation Plan, including sidewalks, improved accessibility, shade structures, street lighting and bicycle facilities;
  • $7 million for the Amador Crossing housing project planned for the Community of Hope campus to provide supportive housing and services, in addition to $6 million from general obligation bonds;
  • $4.2 million for tenovation and trail projects in Valley View Park;
  • $2.4 million for construction of Fire Station #9 on the east mesa, to cover a gap in funding from general obligation bonds;
  • $1 million to reconstruct S. Main Street from Avenida de Mesilla to Boutz Road including intersection improvements and buried utilities, on top of $3.3 million already committed;
  • $12 million for the East Mesa Public Recreation Complex project in addition to $12 million already committed;
  • $1.6 million to convert septic systems to municipal sewer lines in two subdivisions;
  • $1 million for reconstruction of Sacramento Street from Polar Avenue to Oasis Avenue, replacing utilities and installing new sidewalks and lighting with improved accessibility;
  • $ for police department building renovations
  • $2 million for a new crime center, as well as funding for police department building renovations.

Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Ignacio Ruiz addressed a number of legislative priorities as well as capital project requests, seeking support to cap school employees’ health insurance contributions at 20 percent; mental health resources; funding for community schools, a model in which schools provide wraparound social services to students and families; covering salary increases for federal funded positions; electric vehicles and energy efficiency measures; and more.

The district’s top capital outlay requests include:

  • $1 million for a career and technical education center;
  • $4,655,000 for a new family support center;
  • $500,000 for the second phase of a mercado for Rio Grande Preparatory Institute students to showcase and market their projects;
  • $500,000 for and outdoor classroom at the Teaching and Learning Center;
  • $300,000 for renovation and remodeling of the employee assistance and staff wellness center.

The district is also seeking appropriations for appropriate materials, equipment and supplies for each of those facilities.

New Mexico State University President Jay Gogue completed the lineup with a presentation of the land grant university’s funding requests, including $17.5 million for graduate assistant compensation over five years; increased support for NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service, to $17.33 million; $11.5 million for its online program or “global campus;” $20.8 million for its Ag Experiment Station, which seeks federal research grants, in order to hire more faculty and researchers; and $25 million in capital outlay for agricultural science centers. It is also seeking a total of $20 million in steam and electrical infrastructure upgrades.

Gogue closed his address by making a case for support of NMSU athletics — specifically, for programs showcasing female student athletes, who he said comprise 58 percent of the student population.

“A lot of people think about athletics as, we’ve got to benefit the student athletes. Presidents don’t think of it that way,” he said. “Strong athletic programs increase graduation rates, they increase retention, they increase alumni 20 years from now that come back and provide more private support.”