(Warning – tedious Albuquerque government stuff ahead.)
Isabel Sanchez has a good overview in this morning’s paper of what’s at stake in next week’s Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District election. MRGCD has sometimes been called a “stealth agency” because it’s (pardon the cliche) not up on very many people’s radar. But it is pretty important.
As Isabel explains, it’s a subdivision of government not unlike a city or county, with the power to collect taxes. Essentially every property owner who lives in the valley pays (check the map to see where you fit). The beneficiaries are, generally speaking, the agricultural irrigators:
The district, created by the Legislature in the 1920s, maintains ditches, canals and levees from Cochiti to Bosque del Apache and releases water to farmers and irrigators in Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia and Socorro counties.
Residential property owners within district boundaries pay 4.98 mills, or $166 a year on a $100,000 home. The district lowered that amount to 4.62 mills effective July 1 and plans to pay for it with $2.5 million from the reserve fund.
The district can raise or lower taxes without voter approval. It’s a political subdivision of the state, like a city or county, and can act as independent provided it doesn’t violate state law. It holds its own elections, and can issue tax-backed bonds without asking voters’ permission.
So what’s at stake here, in policy terms, is the extent to which MRGCD’s policies and practices in collecting taxes and distributing water benefit the various interest groups that live down there and other interests – irrigators, recreationalists, the environment. It involves how much in taxes property owners pay, how much irrigators pay for their water, and how much water and MRGCD land is dedicated to other uses.
Check out the map. If it looks like you live in the district, read Isabel’s stuff and go vote.