A bill has been introduced in the New Mexico State Legislature designed to address the growing presence of abandoned schools across the state.
In his proposal, Senator William Soules said he would like to see more money funneled to the state’s Public School Capital Outlay fund to help pay for the demolition of such structures.
According to the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority, there is currently around 750,000 square feet of abandoned or unused school space ready for demolition in the state’s 89 school districts.
Put another way, this means that such structures today exist in up to a quarter of the districts.
Senate Bill 43 would allow for funds to be used to demolish the schools if the “costs of continuing to insure an abandoned facility outweigh any potential benefit when and if a new facility is needed by the school district.”
The funding would also be used in cases where there is no longer any “practical use for the abandoned facility without the expenditures of substantial renovation costs.”
A fiscal impact analysis of the bill prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee estimates that it could carry a price tag of anywhere from $11 million to $18 million during a given three-year period.
The analysis additionally notes that demolishing such structures “could help districts save on insurance and maintenance costs that are continually expended on the abandoned and unused facilities.”
Such buildings are typically abandoned after a district builds a new school, but doesn’t have the funds to get rid of the now-unused older structure. The problem is made all the more challenging given that demolition projects are not usually high on the list of a district’s capital improvement initiatives.
Soules’ bill has been approved by the Senate Education Committee and is now on its way to the full Senate.
By Garry Boulard
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