Voters in Bernalillo County, N.M. handily approved $617 million in school construction funding during a special mill levy and general obligation bond election Feb. 2nd.

The mill levy’s 68.3% ‘yes’ vote continues existing property taxes through 2015 while $225 million in general obligation bonds received 72.1% approval. “The focus with this money will be on renewal and renovation of our older schools,” says Karen Alarid, AIA, executive director of capital operations and director of facilities design and construction at Albuquerque Public Schools. “The average age of an APS school is about 40 years old and they are due.” Some new construction is also funded.

“This bond is a much-needed local stimulus package for the A/E and construction industry,” says Benjamin H. Gardner, AIA, principal with Albuquerque-based Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

Even before the election, APS was a powerful driver of the local economy, currently responsible for approximately 63% of all commercial building permits in the Albuquerque area. “This means jobs in a depressed economy,” says Alarid.

The first project to be funded is the $24-million Food and Nutrition Services Building, designed by Albuquerque-based Claudio Vigil Architects, to provide meals for the district’s 90,000 children. “In addition, I have eight projects that are in the drawer, just waiting for this election to pass,” Alarid says, which will start to go out for bid this month.