FARMINGTON Nearly 80 percent of voters supported a $50 million school bond the district can now sell to fund school improvement projects.

With 7.61 percent voter turnout, Tuesday's election had a higher participation rate than most bond elections in the county, which typically draw about 3 to 4 percent of eligible voters, said Debbie Holmes, the San Juan County clerk.

The bond passed 1,742 votes to 463. Voters from of the eight polling places, plus the absentee voters, gave overwhelming support to the bond, Holmes said.

"You have that good feeling of great support. It is a sigh of relief and a thank you to all the voters," Farmington Superintendent Janel Ryan said. "But already my head's spinning. Now we have to figure out what, other than Tibbetts, are the main priorities and how much can we do on the first sell of the bond."

The flagship project of the bond will be the construction of a new Tibbetts Middle School near Twin Peaks Boulevard and Troy King Road on land already owned by the district. The district has a list of other school improvement projects that will be funded with the bond money.

D'rese Sutherland, the assistant superintendent of finance, said the district likely will sell the $50 million bond in $9 million to $10 million increments. The list of projects will take at least three years to complete.

"We'll start with the project that we can hit the ground running with," Sutherland said.


The first purchase in the list of improvement projects will be hiring architects.

The district will look at proposals from 19 different architects today and pick 3 to 5 to meet with a committee of school officials Friday. The committee will select two architects, one to build a new Tibbetts and the other to coordinate the rest of the construction projects funded with the bond money, Sutherland said.

The district also has to apply to the Public School Capital Outlay Council to get $20 million to build Tibbetts, which will cost an estimated $34 million. The council previously approved the construction project and provided the district with money to hire an architect, but it would not commit to funding the project until the school district came up with its portion of the money, Ryan said.

With the passage of Tuesday's bond, the Farmington school district joins a host of other districts that recently were successful in getting voters to approve the districts taking out bonds to fund improvement projects. Dating back to Feb. 3, 2009, 33 of 35 New Mexico bond elections have passed, according to public records.

Ryan Boetel: