Dona Ana County to Mull Changes to Spaceport Education Funding

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building with a security fence around it. (Credit: Alex Heard)
The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building with a security fence around it. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners will be considering how it distributes tax revenues from the Spaceport America project to three school districts at its meeting on Tuesday.

The funds are derived from a 1/4 cent tax hike that county residents approved to help fund development of the $225 million spaceport project. The three school districts receive 25 percent of the tax revenue directly.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that under the proposed change, the funding level would not change, but the funds would be dived up as follows:

  • 20 to 25 percent of revenue would go toward college scholarships
  • 10 to 12.5 percent would “support curriculum development and post-graduate studies” for school teachers involved in the sciences
  • 10 to 12.5 percent would go toward fellowships for graduate studies in “space-related subjects at New Mexico State University by outstanding college graduates from around the nation”
  • 7.5 to 10 percent to create an endowed chair of space-related business development at NMSU
  • at least 40 percent would fund school enrichment programs to promote science, technology, engineering and math among middle and high school students

The measure is designed to address issues raised by some state lawmakers who felt that schools in Dona Ana were being given an unfair financial advantage over those in other counties. State school funding is provided to the counties according to a formula; the spaceport tax money is in addition to that funding.

An effort by state lawmakers to count the spaceport tax revenues as part of state education support failed earlier this year. The measure also would have affected Sierra County, whose residents also supported a tax hike to help fund the spaceport and receive education from revenues that are raised.