By Marty Mayfield
The Raton School board in a special meeting heard from the school financial officer Lita Sanchez and Superintendent Andy Ortiz on the budget before their regular meeting Monday evening in the RHS Krivokapich Media Center.
During the regular meeting the school board members voted to table the approval of the budget until the June meeting so that they could have more time to go over the multi-page document. Especially in light of swearing in a new school board member in Abe Elliot and since the board only received the budget this morning. Member Ted Kamp felt uncomfortable approving a budget he hadn’t had time to look over and better understand.
The reason they only received the over $10 million budget this morning is that Sanchez is still waiting on monies for six different funds to be released and received by the school. She also noted that the budget had to be in the Public Education Department office by noon today.
The total budget at this time pending PED review and approval and the extra funds is $10,216,920 with 82% of the total budget going to salaries and benefits.
Ortiz noted during the budget review that with the help of Butch McGowen and Sanchez they have looked at everything they can think of to balance the budget. They had asked the state for $201,000 in supplemental funding and only received $134,000. There is also a promise of $192,000 from the state that may or may not materialize. Some of these calculations are based on a 3% carry over in cash balance.
It was noted in the meeting that Raton is not the only school facing this problem as Robertson Schools, West Las Vegas Schools and Clayton Schools are all closing buildings this year and will be facing some of the same funding issues. As a result of the budget deficit the Raton schools will be losing the PE program, Elementary music, FCCLA at the intermediate school, the alternative program and some Art programs. Ortiz noted that “this has caused me more grief than I ever imagined”. He also had to let go of 9 ½ teachers and seven non-certified staff.
Now that this has happened they will seek ways to work within the small school funding formula to get that back and hopefully help the situation some. The schools lost $356,000 in small school funds as a result of the reorganization. Enrollment this year will be a key factor in how that works out.
Another issue Ortiz noted is that the state only provides just over $4000 per student which is tough to compete with other states that fund as high as $7000 a student and pay teachers better. Ortiz felt that even with a special legislative session New Mexico Schools probably won’t see any additional funding as the state has even whittled away at what was called a school slush fund. Ortiz told the board that we didn’t have the slush fund to take from.
The Raton School board will meet in their next regular meeting on June 14, 2017.