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O’Leary: Council Approves MOU With NCRTD

on November 16, 2017 - 5:58am

By Vice Chair Susan O’Leary

Los Alamos County Council

In our consent agenda during Tuesday's Council meeting, we approved a request to provide North Central Regional Transit District with $350,000. This transit district serves a number of counties in Northern New Mexico and this funding is in addition to county funding for the county's Atomic City Bus service.

The Council agreed to this specific action in April as part of our budget process and tonight’s action was merely fulfilling that agreement. Reading tonight’s agenda documents, I was reminded that Los Alamos County has provided $7 million to this regional transit program over the past 11 years.

There are several other regional initiatives to which Los Alamos County provides funds and participates as a member. These initiatives are found in the county’s budget under the Progress through Partnership Program.

I have voted to support funding for this program over the past three years because I believe that our County benefits from being part of a healthy region. But, I also believe that the County Council’s first responsibility is to provide for the needs of Los Alamos County Citizens. Our County provides exceptional service to citizens in many areas, but we have a large service gap in County recreation facilities, especially those that benefit our children. Neighboring communities have found ways to provide their children with indoor swimming facilities, gyms, and ice rinks; Los Alamos County has not. Our children attend poorly-funded public schools; because of State Law, we can’t supplement funding for schools. But our County can provide our children with indoor facilities that allow them to participate in healthy activities outside of school – facilities that also benefit adults.

Over the same time period that Los Alamos County provided $7 million for a regional transit system, our County’s Parks and Rec Budget declined by 7 percent. That's a trade-off our county has made, purposefully or unwittingly. In a few weeks, we’ll take another look at the CIP recreation projects. I’m hopeful that a majority of the Council will agree to use capital improvement funds to provide our community with appropriately scaled facilities that are long overdue. I raise this point because I think it’s important to note that balancing budgets is always about making trade-offs. There’s never enough money to do everything. You can see the trade-off that’s been made so far.

The good news is that we can continue to be a good neighbor to communities in Northern New Mexico while also using capital improvement funds to improve recreation facilities for our children and families. That’s certainly what I hope will happen. Going forward, I do intend to consider every funding decision that comes to the Council with an eye toward not only what makes sense for the entire community; but also by how these decisions benefit our children. I encourage you to do the same.