Belen Board of Education begins redistricting process

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The Belen Board of Education is gearing up to redraw its five districts due to an increase in the population.

Michael Sharp, vice president of Research & Polling, Inc., informed board members at their June 26 meeting how their firm would proceed in the redistricting process, which would include public meetings and feedback on proposed districts drawn by the company.

School districts must redraw district lines that determine which voters are represented by each district if the population they're located in increases more than 16,000, according to New Mexico statute.

The school district's population increased to 30,532, according to the 2010 census, which is a 9.5 percent jump from the 2000 census, which indicated a population of 27,884.

District 2 saw a 43.6 percent increase — the largest jump.

Board President R. Sam Chavez, who represents District 2, said his district grew due to the development of vacant land.

While redistricting, Research & Polling aims to create "ideal populations" within each district by dividing the population amongst the districts, Sharp said. These ideal populations must be 5 percent above or below the ideal population, meaning each district would contain around 6,106 residents, or the ideal population.

Although the board holds the final decision of the district's makeup, Research & Polling will also split the population by minority voting rights, compactness, contiguity and communities of interest.

"What it looks like in the end is up to you," Sharp said.

To make the districts an even representation of the growing population, District 1 must increase by 13.1 percent, or 797 individuals; District 4 needs to increase by 17.5 percent, or 1,066 individuals; and District 5 must expand by 10.4 percent, or 635 residents.

"Potentially some pretty big changes need to be made," Sharp said.

Although District 3 also needs to be expanded by about 2.6 percent, or 160 residents, it may remain the same size, since it is within the allowable ideal population measures.

"Plans are rarely perfect and they're not set in stone," Sharp said. "They're intended to initiate discussion and then apply the changes."

Research & Polling, Inc., a market and public opinion research company out of Albuquerque, completed redistricting for the Los Lunas Public School District this spring.

The board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 11 to review potential district outlines before receiving input through a public meeting.

The Belen Board of Education must complete its redistricting by September.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.