Voters in the village of Maxwell in northeastern New Mexico will decide next week on a property tax question, the revenue of which will go for a variety of school facility projects.
Last spring members of the Maxwell Municipal School District's governing board voted to put on this November's ballot a question asking voters to approve a property tax of $2 on every $1,000 of property for a variety of facility projects.
The revenue, by design, will also target the construction of teacher housing, while also acquiring and improving school grounds.
Located at 412 Parque Avenue, the Maxwell Municipal Schools is made up of three primary facilities and has a total enrollment of around 120 students.
According to information provided by the school district, the property tax revenues may also be applied to the installation of education technology improvements.
District voters in May overwhelmingly approved a $1.1 million obligation bond designed to pay for facility heating and cooling system improvements and security upgrades.
The larger village of Maxwell has a population of around 224 people, according to the most recent Census Bureau statistics, and was founded in the late 1870s as a way station for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.
By Garry Boulard
Less than three weeks remain before a federal government shutdown is triggered on November 17.
That shutdown may be averted if Congress passes a short-term funding measure, while “enacting individual appropriations bills would probably take far too long,” notes the Washington Post, “as the House and Senate don’t agree on how much to spend this fiscal year.”
Negotiations between the two chambers were made more complicated by protracted balloting leading to the election of a new Speaker of the House on October 25.
Mike Johnson, the new Republican Speaker, has said that averting a shutdown is his first priority in the days ahead, but, according to the site Axios, also indicated that “if indeed we come to November 17 and we’re unable to finish because it’s detailed work and it takes some time, we’ll look at another stopgap measure.”
In proposals designed to hold off the government shutdown, two funding bills have been aired in the House: one would reduce Department of Transportation funding by some $7 billion, while the Housing and Urban Development Department would be hit with a $1.2 billion cut.
President Biden, however, has said if either bill makes it to his desk, he would veto them. The White House, at the same time, issued a release saying that such cuts would “endanger critical services for the American people.”
In September a government shutdown was averted after Congress voted to keep federal agencies open until November 17 as former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dropped demands for steep spending cuts.
At the time, Democratic New Mexico Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury called the agreement a "huge victory for the American people," while Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn noted that a shutdown would have hurt "our servicemembers, their families, and countless others in Colorado's Fifth District and across the nation."
Meanwhile, the specter of continued government shutdowns appears to be secure: members of the U.S. Senate failed to achieve a required 60 votes needed to pass the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act, which would have instituted a continuing resolution designed to keep federal government agencies in operation until spending agreements are reached.
“We have the opportunity to end government shutdowns forever,” Republican Oklahoma Senator said before the measure failed.
By Garry Boulard
Building and design requirements pertaining to the future development of one of the oldest sections of El Paso are now part of a public document.
Anchored by the nearly 120-year-old El Paso Union Depot, the Union Plaza is already the home to a thriving farmer’s market, as well as a number of restaurants, bars, and art galleries.
Existing structures in the area are classic of the kind of construction and architecture prevalent during the first two decades of the 20th century, with many of the buildings made of brick and cut stone and cast iron used for arches and lintels.
A new document called Architectural & Design Guidelines—Union Plaza lists recommendations for site development, building form, and architectural character in putting up new structures in the area.
Referencing the Union Depot, which was designed by noted architect Daniel Burnham and is located at 700 San Francisco Street, the document states that “for the sake of design unity and identification,” all future renovation and construction should be enacted using the building as a kind of anesthetic guideline.
The document also states that in the building of new mixed-use projects, “residential uses shall not occupy the ground floor,” with the building itself oriented to the street.
Asserting that elements such as covered entrances, display windows, and roof lines contribute to the sense of a larger urban environment, the document adds: “New construction and additions should maintain and reinforce the existing pattern and contribute contextually through proportional height and massing.”
In keeping with the early 20th century feel “period lighting should be installed on all sidewalks, alleys, open spaces and building facades,” with neon lighting and fiber optics used as logos and signs permitted on building fronts.
According to the publication El Paso Matters, the first reading of an ordinance change governing the district also allows for the “construction of a larger variety of businesses, including a multipurpose center and an arena," although whether such a facility will ever be built in the vicinity remains a contentious issue.
The Union Plaza includes the Duranguito neighborhood, which had earlier been pegged for the building of that arena, a proposal that was subsequently challenged in court. The City has since abandoned that plan and recently announced that it wanted to sell 18 properties it had earlier purchased to make way for the project.
By Garry Boulard
One of the largest food production companies in Mexico has announced plans to build facilities in El Paso.
The Chihuahua-based Grupo Bafar company wants to renovate and repurpose a building at 1600 E. 4th Street Avenue in the city’s El Segundo Barrio that has long served as a steel fabricating facility for the Kasco Structures company.
Grupo Bafar also wants to build a new 61,000 square-foot building that will house both warehouse and administrative space.
In a move to facilitate the plan, members of the El Paso City Council have now voted to approve a performance-based agreement with Grupo Bafar worth nearly $716,000. El Paso County Commission members, meanwhile, have given a thumbs-up to a $166,000 incentive agreement with the company.
For its part, Grupo Bafar will commit just over $21.3 million to both renovating the Kasco building as well as building the new structure.
According to city documents, the facilities on East 4th Street will become the company’s U.S. headquarters, with plans to “source 95% of their power from solar.”
Offering a wide variety of ham, smoked bacon, grilled sausage, and smoked bacon, among other items, Grupo Bafar has had a manufacturing presence in El Paso since 1987.
In a statement, Jorge Alberto Baeza Fares, chief executive officer of Grupo Bafar, said the company is “excited to grow our roots even deeper in El Paso.”
The company has proven particularly successful in getting its products onto the shelves of primarily Hispanic supermarkets in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, among other states.
According to various sources, Grupo Bafar has enjoyed annual revenues in excess of $1 billion. A statement from the company said its third quarter growth this year was due to an ability to “adapt to market challenges,” while also highlighting an “ongoing commitment to excellence and innovation in the food sector.”
By Garry Boulard
Construction employment gains over the last year represent a scattershot picture, with no one region doing significantly better or worse than another, according to a new survey.
Published by the Washington-based Associated General Contractors of America, the survey shows that Texas added the most construction jobs between September 2022 and September 2023, with a gain of 19,900.
Next up is California, with the addition of 14,100 jobs, followed by Ohio, up over the last year by 12,700 jobs.
A thumbnail sketch of the trends would indicate that the nation’s largest states were seeing the largest construction employment growth. But that theory falls shorts with the next states on the list: Georgia and Louisiana, both up by 10,700 new jobs.
In a statement, Ken Simonson, chief economist with the AGC, noted that the nation’s construction industry “continues to add employees nearly everywhere on a year-over-year basis.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Missouri saw the greatest construction employment losses in the last 12 months, with a decline of 6,500 jobs; followed by Colorado, off by 4,200 jobs; and North Carolina, recording a job loss of 2,300 jobs.
Arizona, meanwhile, was up by around 3,000 jobs since September 2022; with New Mexico posting an equally robust increase of 3,600 jobs.
Looked at from a more immediate perspective, job gains between August and September of this year were recorded in 28 states, as well as the District of Columbia, with Oregon, Tennessee, and California seeing the most growth.
In a press release, the AGC noted that “month-over-month dips in construction employment in some parts of the country were likely caused by firms struggling to find enough workers to replace retiring ones amid labor shortages.”
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced for the establishment of a growing regional 3D concrete printing company in Greeley.
Currently located in Iowa City, Iowa, the company Alquist 3D wants to build both a production facility and showroom as it expands its unique 3D printing technology used for home construction.
The company, which has secured some $2.8 million in an incentives package from the City of Greeley, will set up operations in a roughly 3,000 square-foot space just to the east of Greeley's downtown core.
The move to Greeley comes as the city and state are trying to tackle the growing challenge of building more housing for one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
"Colorado faces a housing supply shortage and we need action," remarked Colorado Governor Jared Polis in celebrating the company's decision to locate in Greeley.
Founded in 2020, Alquist 3D has become famous for applying 3D technology to the construction of concrete-based homes. The process sees the printer laying out layers of walls, leading to the creation of an actual full wall in building the total house.
The efficiency of its methods, said the company in a news release, allows it to concentrate on "creating lower-cost housing and infrastructure and serving economically distressed and underserved communities."
Demonstrating its commitment to Greeley, Alquist 3D has entered into a contract that will see it developing around one hundred homes for a Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity project called Hope Springs.
In order to secure the company for Greeley, the State of Colorado came up with just over $1 million in incentives via a Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit based on the company's plan to hire nearly one hundred people.
By Garry Boulard
Chipping away at what is thought to be a dearth of 5,600 affordable rental units in the city, plans are now moving forward for a new housing complex in Las Cruces geared especially for seniors.
To be called the Padrena Apartments, the $26 million complex will go up on a currently vacant site some 3 miles to the south of downtown Las Cruces.
Members of the Las Cruces City Council have given their unanimous approval to a project that will see the building of an L-shaped, three-story structure housing eighty rental units.
Those eighty-one and two-bedroom units will be restricted to tenants 55 years of age and older, with construction expected to begin early next year. What is being called the main building of the project will include such amenities as a business center, library, exercise room, and private meeting rooms.
The project belongs to the Thomas Development Company, which is based in Boise, Idaho.
In approving the project, council members also signed off on around $3.3 million in loan agreements between the Thomas company and the City of Las Cruces to spur the project's development.
Founded in 1990, the Thomas Development Company specializes in multifamily real estate projects and has to date spearheaded the development of more than 4,000 apartment homes.
By Garry Boulard
The average credit card interest rate has now reached 28.9%, the highest rate on record, according to a new survey published by the site Bankrate.com.
Anything nearing the 29% rate has long been regarded as an “artificial barrier that few dared to cross” in the industry, remarked Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst for Bankrate.
“But the market has blown past that threshold given the Fed’s aggressive series of interest rate hikes over the past year and a half,” continued Rossman.
Today’s rate is extraordinary compared with where things stood in 2008 when the country was just entering the Great Recession. Then the rate was at 18.1%.
In the next decade, the rate slowly climbed to 25.6%, and entered a historic high last year when it came in at 26.7%.
The latest rate, notes the Washington Examiner, “can be seen as a warning for shoppers heading into the holiday shopping season.”
In fact, adds the publication, the annual percentage rate is now “making shopping and paying off retail debt far more challenging, particularly considering that consumers are already being hurt by high inflation.”
Overall credit card debt in the U.S. surpassed the $1 trillion market in August, with outstanding balances on cards increasing by 18.1%. At the same time, notes the Atlanta-based financial data company Equifax, sixty-day payment lateness has increased to 1.8%, up from 1.2% last year.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Americans were burdened with $105 billion in credit card interest in 2022. Of that amount, the last four months of 2022 accounted for $30.5 billion—the highest such quarter rate in nearly a decade.
The high debt rate currently assumed by consumers also makes them more vulnerable to scams, notes Rohit Chopra, CFPB Director.
“With credit card debt crossing the trillion-dollar mark, we will be working to prevent bait-and-switch tactics when it comes to rewards and to increase refinancing activity so consumers can get lower rates,” said Chopra in a statement.
The CFPB also notes the increased presence of a credit card conundrum: nearly 10% of credit card users today find themselves in persistent debt, being charged “more in interest and fees each year than they pay toward the principal—a pattern that could become increasingly difficult for some consumers to escape.”
Responses in Washington to the historic credit card rate have seen Missouri Senator Josh Hawley introducing the Capping Credit Cards Interest Rates Act, which would mandate an annual percentage rate of no more than 18%.
That measure is currently under review in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Credit cards first came into wide use in America with the introduction of the Diners Club in 1949 and both the Carte Blanche and American Express cards, introduced in 1958. Used by well under 10% of consumers during the Eisenhower years, today 84% of Americans own and use at least one credit card.
By Garry Boulard
Funding for the building of a new police academy in Colorado Springs may be decided by the results of a ballot initiative in early November.
Ballot 2A is proposing that the city be allowed to keep nearly $5 million in excess tax revenue; money that could be used to acquire property, as well as plan, design, and ultimately build the new facility for the Colorado Springs Police Department.
The ballot question is not asking voters to approve construction of the police academy itself, but rather to allow the City of Colorado Springs to keep the tax revenue to use for its purposes, contrary to state law.
That law is the Colorado's controversial Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, popularly known as TABOR, which limits how much revenue any city can keep per year without voter approval.
If voters say yes to Ballot 2A, the city will be able to hold onto the revenue and apply it to the proposed construction of a police academy, which some estimates say could cost as much as $45 million to build.
An alternative proposal to upgrade the police department’s current training facility, located at 725 N. Murray Boulevard, could cost as much as $21 million. That two-story facility was built in 1985 as general public offices and repurposed nearly a decade later as a training academy.
Colorado Springs officials have long said that the Murray Boulevard facility is too small for contemporary training purposes, particularly when it comes to providing space for both current officers as well as recruits.
In a statement, Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade said the new training facility will “help our officers who are asking for better training and will answer the call from our community members who are asking for better training around de-escalation techniques.”
Colorado voters in 1992 approved amending the state constitution to include a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. That amendment has since been used to put a lid on the revenues of all levels of government in the state, while also prohibiting the raising of tax rates without voter approval.
By Garry Boulard
A spending plan is expected to be taken up by the Denver City Council next month that could include upwards of $2 million for the construction of pickleball courts throughout the city.
If approved, the funding would come from the officially named Denver Parks and Open Space Sales Tax overwhelmingly approved by city voters in 2018.
The ballot question in that election, which passed by nearly 62%, proposed raising the local sales tax rate by 0.25% to fund any number of parks, open space, trails, and waterway projects throughout Denver.
If the plan is approved by the council, anywhere between half a dozen and ten pickleball courts will see construction in various parts of the city.
Denver currently has seven pickleball courts of varying sizes, all built in response to a demand for what is one of the most popular recreational activities of the day.
Denver has also established a special Pickleball Planning and Advisory Group, tasked with reviewing possible sites for new courts, while also monitoring the upkeep of existing courts.
Regarded as the country’s fastest growing sport, pickleball is now regularly played by nearly 9 million people, more than three times the number from a decade ago. That growth has prompted dozens of cities and counties across the country to plan and build new pickleball facilities.
In a statement, Tom Cove, chief executive officer of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, recently remarked: “Pickleball’s growth trajectory gives every indication it will be a significant part of the American sports landscape for the foreseeable future.”
By Garry Boulard
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