County commissioners oppose amendments

Tony Parra

The Roosevelt County Commission on Tuesday adopted a resolution opposing to two constitutional amendments on the ballot in this month’s special election.
Votes for the amendments would eliminate the state’s principal on the board of education and beef up public school funding with increased interest allocations from the state’s permanent land fund.
The commission adopted the resolution with a 4-1 vote, with commissioner Dennis Lopez dissenting.
The first amendment seeks to eliminate the principal of the State Board of Education and instead appoint a Secretary of the Board of Education who would answer directly to the Legislature.
The election is Sept. 23.
“I think this amendment will give too much power to the Legislature,” said commissioner Tom Clark, who is opposed to the amendment.
Commissioner Gene Creighton echoed Clark’s position.
“We have to take a stand,” said Creighton, who is also opposing the amendments. “We are for education reform. This has sparked a controversy. I think there’s too much power in one person’s hand.”
The second amendment would provide a limited additional distribution from the permanent fund to provide more money to public schools to implement and maintain educational reforms.
“I think we should put the money in education reform,” Lopez said. “The state lost a lot of money in the Enron scandal because it had money invested in the company. Instead of losing the money, we should use it for education. I’m just not sure what long-term affect it will have on the permanent fund.”
The second amendment has ignited statewide controversy and many state officials have criticized the governor.
Last week Pat Lyons, the state’s commissioner of public lands, came to Clovis and spoke adamantly against the amendment, stating it would place financial strains on the state’s future cash reserves.
Two weeks ago Richardson came to Portales asking voters to accept the amendment, which seeks to increase the withdrawals from 4.7 percent to 5.8 percent from 2005 to 2012 and 5.5 percent from 2013 to 2016. Most of the money would go to education reform and the state-mandated increases in teachers salaries.
Steve Gamble, the president of Eastern New Mexico University, said the amendment is great for public school education.
“I applaud the governor for trying to do more than just talk about education,” Gamble said. “In other words, trying to get a significant resource base established to make our K-12 education even better.”
Commissioners Creighton and Clark aren’t as optimistic about the amendment as Gamble.
“There are other ways of reforming education,” Clark said. “We can’t just throw money at the problem.”
Creighton added, “there’s no guarantee that they’re going to use that money for education. I do not support either amendment because I’m not so sure that the money won’t be shifted into something else.”
The commissioners also discussed:
l County officials’ steps to resolve the jail overcrowding issue. Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator Jesse Luera has already had 13 inmates transferred to the Dickens County Detention Center.
After sending 13 inmates to Dickens County, the RCDC still has 11 too many for the 58-bed facility.
“We were sending inmates to Palmer County, but we can no longer do that,” Luera said. “We had to bring them back because of lack of space. We are going to have those 13 in Dickens County for a couple of weeks and then swap them out with a new 13 inmates to be fair to their families.”