NO! To Q of L Tax Increase, Part 4

NO! to Q of L Tax Increase, Part 4 by Peter Burrows 7/27/13

The voters of Grant County will soon receive a ballot in the mail asking us to approve a .25% increase in the Gross Receipts Tax.  This will support a $10 million bond sale, the proceeds from which will be spent on five projects in Grant County, projects that some people think will improve our quality of life and economic welfare, thereby leading to happier families, lower crime rates, longer lives, and so on.

The most moronic of the proposals is to spend $3 million building a movie multiplex, which someone will then manage.  A recent editorial in the GC Beat by Lynda Aiman-Smith gives chapter and verse on a similar project in Deming.  Why such a disaster should be visited on the residents of Grant County is a mystery to me.

A more fundamental reason to vote against the proposal is that half the proceeds will be used to support Western New Mexico University projects, specifically a new swimming pool complex and a refurbished baseball field.  Aside from the widely held opinion that college athletic programs are a waste of money, especially at small colleges, the university is not Western Grant County University.

WNMU is a state supported institution, which means the entire state of New Mexico.  If the state refuses to pay for something University President Joe Shepard wants, it is not the obligation of Grant County taxpayers to fill the void.  A baseball field?  Say it ain’t so, Joe.

In fact, if the spending was to be for new libraries and laboratories at the university, we should still vote no.  If we’re going to spend our tax dollars on new libraries and laboratories — or new pools and baseball fields — it should be for Silver High School, or Cobre, or Cliff, or Aldo Leopold.

Dr. Shepard previously worked at a university in Florida, a relatively rich state. New Mexico is a relatively poor state, and Grant County is a relatively poor New Mexico county.  We would be even poorer if it weren’t for WNMU, one of Grant County’s most important assets.   However, to the extent WNMU starts to be a burden on Grant County taxpayers, to that extent it is less an asset and more a liability.

Let’s don’t go down that road. There is no end.

On a larger scale, the Rio Grande Foundation has done research showing that New Mexico, with 65 higher education campuses spread over 16 colleges, is over-schooled and spending way too much on higher education relative to richer states, e.g. Arizona.  How long is this going to go on?  Might this mean budget cuts, curricula elimination, and perhaps the elimination of all athletics are someday inevitable for WNMU?

Nationally, the Wall Street Journal had an article last Thursday about second tier colleges having a hard time filling their freshman classes.  This is due in part to the demographic fact that the number of high school graduates is in a long-term decline from its peak 3.4 million in 2010-2011.  Add to that the soaring costs of tuition, a trillion dollars of student debt, jobless college grads, and people are finally beginning to ask a fundamental question: Is a college education worth what it costs?

Note, the question is not if a college education is worthwhile, but is it worth as much as it costs?  If the primary purpose of college is to prepare for a career, the answer may be a resounding no, especially relative to a shorter, cheaper, technical education.  Maybe that’s where WNMU can find a niche.

The Internet promises to be an integral part of the future of higher education, a future that will provide a better education at a lower cost. WNMU already offers eight online degrees. Living on campus, going to college football games (or swim meets), is yesterday’s college, not tomorrow’s, especially not for WNMU, which I think faces a very uncertain future.

NO! to the tax incease.

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