General Obligation (GO) bonds are one strand of revenue for capital projects that Bernalillo County uses and leverages to obtain additional funding from State of New Mexico Capital Outlay grants and federal transportation grants.
GO bonds are sold by the county to bond investors, subject to voter approval of separate bond questions, as a way to generate revenue for capital projects. Separate bond questions are posed for roads, drainage, utilities, county buildings, public safety, recreational facilities, and libraries. GO bonds must be sold within four years of voter approval. They must be fully spent on capital (bricks and mortar) projects, not on daily operations or maintenance, within three years of the bond sale.
Voters are presented with GO bond questions posed by the county in elections held in even-numbered years, and all projects slated for GO bond funding are included in Bernalillo County’s six-year Capital Improvement Plan. GO bond funds are intended to go to the neediest projects, particularly those that are partially funded and need an extra push to achieve 100 percent funding. The County Commission has the ultimate authority as to which projects receive GO bond funding.
Each biennial GO bond package is approximately $35 million. Debt service to pay back the bonds dictates the amount of the bond package. While Bernalillo County could bond for a higher dollar value, it doesn’t so that debt service remains manageable. Debt service is akin to a monthly home mortgage payment; a family still has other living expenses to budget so it cannot devote 100 percent of its income to making the monthly home mortgage payment.
While the public is free to suggest capital projects to receive GO bond funding (see neighborhood request form below), the public must understand the tremendous demand and need for scarce capital project funds. As of 2018, Bernalillo County currently has more than $700 million of unfunded capital projects as part of its Capital Improvement Plan.