Citing affordable housing as one of Santa Fe’s greatest needs to recruit and retain educators in the district, the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education adopted a resolution 3-0 on Thursday to declare its support for a proposed high-end home excise tax on local election ballot Nov. 7.
“I’m doing a lot of talking these days about the challenges that we’re facing here, and I can’t have a single conversation that doesn’t involve affordable home prices,” Board President Sarah Boses said. “Declining enrollment? Affordable homes. Teacher shortages? Affordable homes…It’s really at the root, and I feel like we’ve been saying this and talking about it for years, and I am grateful for our City Council members for the courage to put this forward, and I am excited for us to support it..”
The resolution says the school board “reiterates its position that affordable housing for educators is a crisis that is placing high-quality learning in Santa Fe in jeopardy” and “calls for additional funding and aggressive action from local, state and federal government to provide funding and partner with communities to address this crisis in educator housing.”
Board Member Kate Noble, who sponsored the measure, credited the Santa Fe chapter of the National Education Association for “bringing to attention the interconnected nature of these issues.” She noted that NEA-SF identified a “missing middle” group of educators who earn enough money to not qualify for affordable housing programs, but not enough to keep up with soaring housing costs.
“This community, as we know, desperately needs educators. We need our teachers, we need our staff, we need people who work in this district to be able to live here,” Noble said. According to the resolution, in August 2021, NEA-Santa Fe surveyed more than 400 educators on topics including affordable housing. The survey reported 86% of local educators could not buy a home that met their family’s needs; 64% experienced rent increases causing financial hardships in the last five years; and 52.9% were concerned about their ability to continue working in Santa Fe due to rising costs.
The proposed 3% excise tax would affect home sales of more than $1 million in the city limits and only be applied to the portion of a home sale over that threshold. Housing sales data indicates it could raise approximately $4.5 million each year for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez said extra resources for housing would help the district fill vacancies in staff and address declining enrollment.
“I don’t know how many of our educators that we tried to hire, who accept verbally, and then start doing research within the community, have to back out of that acceptance because they cannot afford to live in Santa Fe,” Chavez said.
Grace Mayer, NEA-SF president, also spoke in support of the tax. She emphasized that many teachers who take long commutes from Albuquerque or Rio Rancho often can’t make time to fully participate in their schools, something she hopes can change if voters approve the ballot measure.
“It’s heartbreaking for the teachers, but also for our students and our families who don’t realize that 60% of our workforce don’t live in the city,” Mayer said.
Boses, Noble and Carmen Gonzales unanimously voted to pass the resolution. Board members Roman “Tiger” Abeyta and Sascha Anderson were both present at the meeting, but recused themselves to avoid conflicts of interest. Anderson formerly worked with the United for Affordable Housing political action committee, and Abeyta is executive director for the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust.
In addition to aiding educators, Boses said the tax will help lower-income Santa Fe families to remain in the district.
“We want the folks that live here and want to be here to be able to afford to stay,” Boses said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story gave incorrect information about Anderson’s current role with the PAC and has been corrected.