FARMINGTON — San Juan College stands to gain $2 million if voters on Nov. 2 approve a $155 million bond to support higher education.

Half of the college's bond money would be used to purchase equipment for the school of trades and technology, comprising 13 programs including fire and police science, cosmetology and veterinary science. The other million would be used to build an alternative energy building for the renewable energy program, said Gayle Dean, the director of the San Juan College Foundation.

The current renewable energy program shares a classroom for lectures and students spend most of the time working outside, she said.

The bond for higher education, referred to as Bond D on the ballot, represents the majority of the $175 million of general obligation bonds on which voters will cast ballots Tuesday. The $155 million would be shared among 31 colleges and universities in New Mexico.

San Juan College received about $5 million in bond money during the most recent bond election in 2008. That money is still being used to build a health sciences building. Although several community colleges and universities will receive more money than San Juan College if the bond passes, the college is satisfied with the amount of money it may be allotted, Dean said.

"We realize there are needs throughout the state and we are just glad to be in the mix," she said.

If passed, the bond will increase property taxes across the state an estimated $99.79 over the next 10 years per $100,000 of assessed value. The estimated increases are between $8.


83 and $11.54 per $100,000 of assessed value per year, according to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.

With a new building to house the program, the renewable energy program could more than double the number of students enrolled in the program, said Tom Munson, the renewable energy program coordinator.

About 16 students graduate from the renewable energy program every year. There are about 40 students currently in the program and a waiting list to take courses, Munson said.

The program is in its 11th year and focuses on photovoltaic design and installation, which prepares students for careers working with solar panels.

There are few examples of solar energy being used locally, but that may change if the price of electricity increases, Munson said.

A set of solar panels costs about $15,000 or more to install. It takes about 15 years to pay for itself for homes and about five years for businesses, Munson said.

"It's not a huge industry, it's a growing industry," he said.

More than half of all businesses that work with solar panels are hiring and the number of jobs for people trained in photovoltaic engineering is expected to increase 26 percent by August, according to a report released last week by the Solar Foundation, a solar education and research organization.

"At this point in time most students come from out of state. They seek the program, come here and get the training and then move to somewhere where (solar energy) is happening. There's not much solar energy happening here," Munson said. "It will happen here, it is just taking some time."

Ryan Boetel: