Talon News - Good Local News

By Kirk Carpenter
Aztec Municipal School District 

State Cuts School Budgets

District to face more cuts

 

January 27, 2017

District to Face More Cuts

The 2017 Legislative Session is underway, but this session is unlike any in my twenty-seven years of education. Our Legislators have a very difficult job ahead of them because they will be dealing with two budget bills in this session, one to fix the shortfall that still exists in the 2016- 2017 budget year and then they will turn their attention to the 2017-2018 budget.

You will recall that as a school district we saw a reduction of about $458,000 in the Special Session. We are going to see another reduction from this session of at least $419,000. This is from a proposed 50 million dollar draw down of school budgets to help balance the current shortfall in the current 2016-2017 state budget. All of this is tentative at the time of this article deadline because they were still making amendments to the budget bill. In total this means that we will have lost a total of $877,000.00 from our budget. If the governor has her way, our loss could be 2.4 million dollars. The governor's budget plan is to sweep 120 million dollars statewide and take districts cash balances down to 5%. She was recently quoted as calling cash balances "administrative slush funds" and stating that they do not affect the classroom. Frustrated by these remarks, I wrote a response which I addressed to the Secretary of Education in an email. Below you will see that response:

"I saw the Governor's comments on cash balances and I realize that they are not yours, but I hope that as the Secretary of our Public Education Department you will support the districts. To take cash balances down to a 5% level is absolutely unacceptable. To take any away from districts is not acceptable in my opinion. Further, to refer to cash balances as SLUSH FUNDS, is disheartening, and to say they have nothing to do with students is misguided and demonstrates a lack of understanding on how these funds are used. These funds will be used for the benefit of students in districts across the state. Every district has a story that is unique on why they have a cash balance and more importantly the educational plan they have for it, other than just trying to get through times like these." 

"They save jobs and programs, add essential programs, buy textbooks when instructional materials funding is not adequate, keep grant programs that are arbitrarily taken away, etc. I recently shared a letter with our legislators and others while I was in Santa Fe at the start of this session, about cash balances on how we use ours in Aztec. This is our story on how we use ours.  A cash balance is not a slush fund, it helps with deficits, essentials, but most of all it builds and plans for a better education for students. If that is slush then call it what you will. Sweeping cash balances is taking money from our students and local tax payers.  In a state where education is insufficiently funded, there is never a time to make cuts or take from districts."

"There are so many great things happening in schools across our state; it is just unfortunate that schools and our students have to be a part of the budget battle."  

Finally, to help balance the current year's budget, there are other cuts proposed from the Public Education Department's programs below-the-line funding to the amount of about 8 million dollars. Again, remember all of this is for this budget year and we have not started talking about next school year. As we get ready for the discussions on the 2017-2018 budget year, we know it is going to be tough, but we also know that recouping cash balances is not an answer and neither are more cuts. Our message will be clear, it is time for revenue enhancements and tax reform. Finally we cannot balance the budget off the backs of our students.

 

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