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Winter storm system hits eastern New Mexico, headed next to Texas Panhandle and central Oklahoma

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Winter storm system hits eastern New Mexico, headed next to Texas Panhandle and central Oklahoma


The remnants of a slow-moving atmospheric river storm that pummeled California last week delivered the first notable snowfall of the season across eastern New Mexico, with the National Weather Service warning Sunday of snowpacked and icy roads as the system headed toward the Texas Panhandle and central Oklahoma.

A winter storm advisory was issued for eastern New Mexico, including the city of Roswell. The National Weather Service in Albuquerque said temperatures were in the mid-30s, which is up to 25 degrees below normal.

“Hopefully it will diminish by sunset,” Jennifer Shoemake, a meteorologist for the weather service in Albuquerque, said Sunday.

She said the storm system appeared to be headed next to the Texas Panhandle and central Oklahoma, where warnings were already in effect.

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The National Weather Service forecast up to 8 inches (20 cm) of snow Sunday in the west Texas city of Lubbock, with 1.3 inches (3.3 cm) already on the ground in Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle.

The storms stem from a slow-moving system that first hit California early Wednesday. It moved out after days of wind, record rain and heavy snowfall that caused power outages, street flooding and hundreds of destructive mudslides around Los Angeles.

It also dumped 3 feet (91 cm) of snow over three days in northern Arizona before tracking east on Friday and making its way Saturday into New Mexico.

Shoemake said Albuquerque got up to 4 inches (10 cm) of snow Saturday, with the adjacent mountains getting anywhere between 6 inches (15 cm) and 9 inches (22 cm).

“Likely some decent skiing conditions,” Shoemake said.

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She was right.

In Albuquerque, Sandia Peak Ski Area has opened up for the first time since 2022 with access to top-to-bottom skiing across 300 acres (1.2 kilometers) on all 35 trails.

“It’s like we are in the clouds up there,” snowboarder Jovanni Orozco told Albuquerque TV station KOB. “Literally, it is like low you can’t even see nothing and then the snow just covers your goggles, but it’s fun!”

The Arizona Snowbowl ski resort north of Flagstaff got 55 inches (139 cm) from the recent storms, bringing its snowfall total to 140 inches (355 cm) this season. All lifts and trails at the ski area were open Sunday.

National Park officials closed the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico on Saturday afternoon due to worsening weather, but it was reopened Sunday after snow removal operations.

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New Mexico

Financial literacy coursework added as high school graduation requirement in New Mexico

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Financial literacy coursework added as high school graduation requirement in New Mexico


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 171 into law earlier this month. It adds personal financial literacy as a social studies coursework requirement and lets schools mandate it as a math requirement.

SANTA FE, N.M. — You may remember taking high school algebra, biology, maybe an elective like building trades or culinary arts.

Students these days even take classes on personal financial literacy. Legislation stipulates high schools must have it as an elective.

Now, it’s a high school graduation requirement.

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 171 into law earlier this month. It adds personal financial literacy as a social studies coursework requirement and lets schools mandate it as a math requirement.

Charlie Bergman teaches personal financial literacy at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. He launched the course after teaching it to students at Albuquerque Academy.

“They’re psychologically ready for it. They do well, at it, they’re interested,” Bergman said.

The coursework he teaches in a college setting would translate to a high school classroom, with questions like:

“If I’m paying a 25% APR interest rate on a credit card, and I have a carryover debt that I haven’t paid off of $1,000. And I carry that for two years because I’m just not paying it off, how much do I owe?”

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Bergman says he likes the new requirements but believes this is just the beginning.

St. John’s College offers $500 in an investment account for anyone who passes the final test in Bergman’s course.

Bergman believes legislators could implement something like that for high school students.

“Take part of the state budget and make an allocation to students who complete a really good financial literacy course as a reward. Then, that money could be managed for them by a trustee for the state for a while, but at some point in adulthood, they get control,” he offered.

Bergman is working with the New Mexico Public Education Department and financial institutions, like Nusenda Credit Union, to offer teacher workshops in the fall.

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Read HB 171 below.

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Southeast New Mexico is investing in you

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Southeast New Mexico is investing in you


Southeast New Mexico College recently participated with other community colleges in the state in an economic impact study conducted by Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics.  Given the sheer amount of data that must be included, such studies are always a couple years in arrears.  The year chosen was 2021-2022, which happens to be when New Mexico State University – Carlsbad became SENMC.  While that complicated the process somewhat, we knew it would provide a baseline look at the college upon its founding.

Even in that roller coaster of a year, the results were still impressive.  Based on historical data, SENMC students will see an average 20.9% annual return on the funds they spend on their education.  This is a stunning figure when you compare it to the 9.6% average annual return over the past 30 years for the U.S. stock market.  The low tuition at SENMC, high state support for scholarships, and programs focused on the success of our graduates make for an incredible investment. 

The benefits do not stop there.  For every $1 spent on the college, the community gains $4.50 in added income and social savings.  This results in a total annual impact of $60.3 million for Eddy County, with 599 jobs supported each year.  The report notes that this annual economic boost is essentially equivalent to hosting the Major League Baseball World Series, buying 90 new vehicles, and purchasing a year’s worth of groceries for 139 families—combined.

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This is all before the move to complete independence was truly gaining traction.  At that time, there were services for students, faculty, and staff that were still provided by the New Mexico State University Main Campus.  This meant that dollars were being expended on employees in Las Cruces, leading to those funds being put into circulation there.  Today that local funding does not flow to a city more than three hours away.  It remains here, which means that if the study was completed today, the impact would be even more significant.

In addition, we are deep in the design phase of our Trades x Technologies Building.  When construction begins next year, we will see the infusion of construction wages into our region.  This will be followed by academic programs in Electrical, Oil and Gas, and Radiation Control, which will enhance the skill sets of employees, both current and future, and establish a base for further economic growth in the coming decades.

The difference in an individual student’s life, however, is arguably more noteworthy.  The average associate degree graduate from SENMC will see an increase in earnings of $11,600 each year in their career as compared to someone with a high school diploma.  Quality of life generally increases with more education because of the increase in salary, better health outcomes, and the pride that comes with academic achievement.

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The change that occurs in one’s life due to education reverberates through the generations.  Yes, the dollars and cents matter.  Reports such as the one from Lightcast make the case for the importance of our college in the community.  But you cannot place a price on a new perspective or an increased thirst for knowledge and excellence.  To see the world with new eyes and live a life that is a voyage of discovery, to loosely paraphrase Marcel Proust, is beyond material and temporal value. 

The faculty and staff of Southeast New Mexico College live to create such an experience for our students.  If you or someone you know are seeking to become more, we hope you will join us for a journey of a lifetime.

Kevin Beardmore may be reached at kbeardmore@senmc.edu or 575.234.9211.



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UNM study finds Santolina developers ‘likely overstated’ goals – Source New Mexico

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UNM study finds Santolina developers ‘likely overstated’ goals – Source New Mexico


An economic analysis from the University of New Mexico found that developer targets “are likely overstated,” for Santolina, a controversial development on Albuquerque’s far west side, and warrants further study of its potential revenues and potential costs.

UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research further found that under more realistic hypothetical scenarios for housing, population and employment growth, New Mexico governments’ spending to build public facilities and services could outstrip the tax revenues.

Currently the Santolina project is structured to allow tax revenues from Bernalillo County to reimburse development costs through the creation of a Tax Increment Development District (TIDD).

Developers for Santolina are required to show the development will meet a “no net expense provision,” as part of the Planned Communities policy adopted by the county.

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UNM researchers said the data was limited in some of the projections, but their findings raised questions about whether the development can realistically meet its stated goals.

“Just based on our results from our study, which is a snapshot, not comprehensive, the county may want to examine the revenues versus costs, in order to evaluate the ‘no new net cost’ criteria of the project,” said Julian Baca, one of the researchers in an interview with Source NM.

The Bernalillo County Commission invited Baca to present the findings for 10 minutes to the commission Tuesday evening.

Commissioner Eric Olivas called the findings “eye-popping,” and said further discussion should occur with the county manager, economic development staff and planning staff.

“The level of public investment to subsidize a private developer is massive, and I don’t see the return on investment for the jobs that are projected to be created,” Olivas said.

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He called it a “cautionary tale” in approving economic development agreements, when the county requires further investments in infrastructure.

Commissioner Walt Benson asked who funded the study. It was funded in 2022 from Senate Joint Memorial 3, brought by Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), who represents the district.

Benson asked for “further information,” of what property taxes, which were not part of the analysis, would contribute to reimbursing the developer.

“Trying to make a decision based on a partial [analysis], it’s not fair to us up here,” he said.

Commission chair Barbara Baca said that the council was constrained by time limits, but said future discussions may happen.

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“This is a very short time to cover a very large issue, we could do a study session or something like that, where we can really delve into these kinds of very important questions,” Baca said.

“We will continue the conversation,” she concluded.

What is Santolina?

Santolina is a long-debated effort to build a “planned community” over 13,700 acres for a projected 100,000 people (just smaller than Rio Rancho’s current population).

Once a portion of the Atrisco Land Grant, the 21-square miles sandwiched by Interstate 40, 118th Street and Rio Puerco is now owned by developer Western Albuquerque Land Holdings. In the 2015 master plan, the eventual goal is to build 38,000 homes and create 75,000 jobs.

The proposed location for the Santolina project. (Photo courtesy Bernalillo County)

Bernalillo County Commissioners approved the first phase of Santolina planning in June 2015.

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There has been no development at Santolina, as several phases of planning need approval.

In 2022, the board unanimously approved two requests from developers; including speeding up the timeline to 30 years, and designated more granular zoning for industrial use in a small portion of the proposed development. The board approved the plans over the objections of the planning commission and residents.

Farmers in the South Valley, community members and environmental groups have opposed the development for nearly a decade, contributing to the Contra Santolina group. Their objections have often centered around the development’s proposed water consumption, which residents said would push farmers out as climate change shrinks water supply from the Rio Grande.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research report

The developer’s goals for Santolina are more optimistic than historic employment and population growth in Albuquerque suggest.

New Mexico is in the bottom five nationally in terms of population growth in the past ten years, Baca said.

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“In terms of forecasts, all the data points to much more conservative growth, housing stock and population,” he said.

The targets set by Santolina developers are potentially way too high.

If Santolina met its stated goals issued to public officials, it would account for 49% of new housing in the area,165% of population growth and 62% of employment, the report found.

Researchers found the most active neighborhoods accounted for “no more than 10-15% of new housing in the last five years,” according to building permit data from the city of Albuquerque.

The report also looked at a case study of Mesa Del Sol, another planned community project, within city limits in southeastern Albuquerque.

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While both developments have similarly stated goals, Mesa Del Sol has been in development for the past 18 years. Mesa Del Sol is way below developer expectations, the report found, only accounting for under 2% of housing permits over the last decade in Bernalillo County.

The 56-page report, commissioned by the state legislature, uses data from public sources, such as the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and interviews with public entities, but also a feasibility study commissioned by the developer and details from the master plan.

“In our assessment, recent economic, demographic and housing data do not appear to support the targets sought by Santolina Developers,” the report said in its conclusion, requesting further research on actual costs for government services and potential tax revenues.

The report further notes that if Santolina only meets 20% of its goals (an 80% reduction) it would “reduce the employment, population and potential tax revenues substantially.”

Water infrastructure and roads would be an up-front cost to the developer, Baca said, but portions of those costs could be reimbursed under the tax incentives.

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A 2018 estimate from Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, said water infrastructure to the development would cost $659 million over three phases.

With rising costs in construction and labor, that number could potentially double to $1.3 billion, Baca said.

Officials from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority said Thursday that costs on water infrastructure construction spiked by varying degrees over the last few years.

“Depending on the type of work being done we’ve seen a 30% to 70% cost increase over the last five years,” said David Morris, a spokesperson for the water utility.

Baca emphasized this study is independent research.

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“We have a reputation, a track record of doing good independent, third-party, objective research,” he said.

Previous commissioners authorized Bernalillo County tax revenues to reimburse the Santolina development, but potentially state tax revenues could be in the mix as well. Part of the fiscal analysis the developer’s commissioned looked at seeking state reimbursements, but that would require additional authorization.

“That would make it not just a Bernalillo County issue, but a statewide issue,” Baca said.

What’s next?

A handful of public commenters urged the commissioners to reconsider further approval of the Santolina development Tuesday night.

Linda Starr, a South Valley resident said the previous commissioners approved the development without checking the facts.

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“I hope you will review [Santolina] thoroughly, and please consider the fact that this area should have never been up for development,” she told the commission.

Outside the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners meeting on Aug. 19, 2022, protesters with the Contra Santolina Working Group chanted, “No WALH, no sprawl!” (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

The Bernalillo County Commission has adopted two rounds of planning (called a Level A plan and a portion of Level B plans), and county commissioners are the final authority on planning and development on these first levels.

A third, more granular, level of planning called the Site Development Plan (Level C), only needs approval from Bernalillo County staff before any development can happen, according to the Planned Communities policy.

Groups against the project are asking commissioners to reconsider the Bernalillo Comprehensive Plan which guides development and planning in the county. The draft will be presented at a March 19 meeting.

“Taking a harder look at the reliance on Santolina in the comprehensive plan is one thing, ” said Maslyn Locke, a senior staff attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who has represented people opposing the project.

“The bigger thing the (Bernalillo County Commission) needs to do is really look at whether or not Santolina should have been approved in the first place.”

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