Jason Casuga, middle right, chief engineer and CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District talks with protesters at
the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy office in Albuquerque on Monday.
Jon Austria| Albuquerque Journal

Members of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Board of Directors voted 5-0 Monday in favor of a 1 mill tax increase that will generate $4.3 million a year to be used solely for capital investment in equipment and infrastructure in the district’s nearly 100-year-old irrigation system.

“The goal of this mill increase is to move us away from being reactive to the next infrastructure break,” said Jason Casuga, MRGCD chief engineer. “We have had 10 major infrastructure breaks this irrigation season.”

The increase will affect all property owners within the Conservancy District’s boundaries, whether they are irrigators or not. It will cost the owner of a property assessed at $200,000 an additional $67 a year.

Money resulting from the increase, combined with grants and loans, would be used to pay for some of the $175 million in priority projects the MRGCD says need to be planned, designed, permitted and built.

Those voting for the mill increase were Vice Chair Karen Dunning and board members Barbara Baca, John Kelly, Glen Duggins and Michael Sandoval.

Board Chair Stephanie Russo Baca and board member Joaquin Baca, citing other commitments, left the meeting prior to the vote.

Only four persons addressed the mill increase during the public comment session. Two voiced support and two expressed opposition.

Troy Richardson of Valencia County, who farms a couple of acres of his own and manages a 650-acre pecan farm, was one of the latter.

“I appreciate we need to spend money on infrastructure,” he said, “But I notice that you did not look for that money any place but my pocket. I would recommend you look for that money other places before you increase my taxes.”

Richardson told the Journal that farms are assessed in the millions of dollars, which would mean increases of considerably more than $67.

Ollie Reed Jr., Albuquerque Journal staff writer