The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

School district officials weigh in on cuts


February 2, 2017

Local school district personnel are lending insight in the wake of Gov. Susana Martinez signing legislation addressing accessing school district cash balances. Martinez approved Senate Bill 114 Tuesday.

“The original Senate bill made the cuts but stayed silent on how to make them up,” she said. “In contrast, the House’s first amendments included a wise requirement that districts spend down their cash balances to keep up with their everyday expenses, directly linking the state equalization guarantee (SEG) reduction to excess cash balances. This strategic reduction to excess cash balances gets our state closer to the fiscal stability it needs, while preserving classroom dollars. And while a 2 percent cut may pose a challenge, our districts have the means.”

Clovis Municipal School Superintendent Jody Balch said the legislation will cost his school district just over $1 million and does not bode well for the future.

“The bill signing at least gives us a number, about $1.1million, of what we are going to lose in cash balance on top of the $883,000 we lost in the special session,” said Balch, who referenced the school district maintains a cash balance of $10 million. “Next up is FY18, and who knows where that will go? There’s a lot of school districts, fairly quickly, when the legislative session gets done, they’re going to wonder how to keep their doors open. And that’s not being exaggerative, that’s just the facts.”

Portales Superintendent of Schools Johnnie Cain said the school district avoided another reduction and is working to stay ahead of the curve with regard to possible future cuts.

“I can confirm that Portales Municipal Schools will see no decreases to our funding from SB 114,” he said. “We were cut $315,000 from operational during the special session. The special session also cut $112,000 from transportation and another $25,897 from instructional materials. We were able to absorb these costs from our cash balance. Even though we do not anticipate any more cuts this year, I anticipate next year's public education budget to be reduced statewide. Because of that, we are not filling any positions from resignations that have occurred recently or that might occur during the remainder of the school year. We are trying to ensure as little impact on classrooms as possible using other staff — as we absorb these budget cuts.”

Melrose Schools Superintendent Jamie Widner said his district is recovering from the funding loss sustained late last year while finding ways to brace for what the future may hold.

“Because we are on emergency/supplemental funding, our school district is one of those ‘held/harmless’ with the bill,” he said. “We will not lose anymore funding during this fiscal year. We hope there will be no further cuts during the budget process for FY18, but we won't know until later in the legislative session. We were cut $31,500 after the special session last fall and that was very difficult for us to manage and still keep what we had. We had an educational assistant resign in November and she wasn't replaced, so that is where some of the savings came from. We are looking at some retirements this year and will try to combine some positions for next year, because we know the budget situation is becoming more and more difficult to manage.”


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