After voters approved Santa Fe Community College's $35 million bond
request last week
, SFR put in a call to SFCC President Sheila Ortego to see what that means for the college's immediate future—and whether SFCC board members got tax write-offs to push the plan.
As the roughly 5,000 Santa Feans who voted on the bond will recall
, the bulk of it—approximately $12 million—is slated for the construction of a new Higher Education Center
near the College of Santa Fe (which on Aug. 30 will change its name
to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design).
Ortego says the prototype for the Center, which has been touted as a means of
giving SFCC students more degree options at a site closer to town, will
run as a pilot project
in fall 2011. Ortego says she expects "between
200 and 500" students for the pilot degree program.
"We're expecting larger numbers when we roll out the full program," Ortego tells SFR.
Ortego, who says she was "cautiously optimistic" that the bond would pass, says SFCC will release an RFP—request for proposal—under which other colleges and universities across New Mexico can offer to partner with SFCC in the Higher Ed Center in the next few months.
SFR also asked Ortego about an odd item on the minutes
from an April 29 meeting of SFCC's governing board. From those minutes:Now that the campaign is organized and “Citizens for SFCC” has been established,‘we are requesting the following from Board members.1. Make a personal tax-deductible contribution to the campaign committee through the GROW Foundation.
The GROW Foundation, which supports the College's programs and facilities, is tax-exempt. As such, it can offer tax write-offs to donors. But here's the catch:
What if the donations were made for the specific purpose of advocacy?
Advocacy, no less, for increasing the public's share of funding SFCC through a bond?
"The GROW Foundation can't spend more than 5 percent of the time on advocacy
, and we certainly pass that test," Ortego tells SFR. But since taxpayer money can't be spent on advocacy, Ortego adds, it's "very standard practice" to use foundation money instead.
In the recent bond vote, though, board members' donations and tax breaks were something of a non-issue."We only had one board member who contributed
to the campaign," Ortego says. Ortego says she doesn't know whether that board member will claim his/her $100 donation
as a tax deduction.