Budget shortfalls lead to staff cuts

By Mike Linn

Portales schools will lose two administrative positions and five years worth of savings to balance their budget, officials said on Monday.
The Portales Municipal School Board approved the tentative budget by a 3-1 vote, citing unfunded government mandates to raise teachers’ salaries as reason for the cuts and draining of cash reserves.
Board member Steve Davis cast the lone no vote, citing uneasiness about draining the cash reserves.
Portales is not alone: School districts across the state are feeling the budgetary problems brought on by New Mexico lawmakers, according to Portales School Board Superintendent Jim Holloway.
“I would say 80 percent of the districts have the same problem we’ve got; that’s not to say that we feel good that our misery has company,” Holloway said from speaker phone in Albuquerque.
Among the cuts: Assistant superintendent Debra Clark will not be rehired next year; Portales High School will go with two principals next year instead of three.
Murphy Quick, former PHS principal, will slide into the position of business director for Portales schools, filling in for Jim Davis, who recently retired.
The two cut positions account for roughly $140,000 and the cash reserves account for $331,869 — a good chunk of the money that will fund a mandatory 6 percent raise in teachers’ salaries for next year.
The consensus among board members was that draining all of the district’s cash reserves is both bothersome and necessary to balance the unfunded mandates.
“We all agree we don’t like spending our reserves, but school must go on,” Portales School Board President David Brooks said.
“A budget like this is on a wing and a prayer…” Holloway said.
Holloway said he didn’t see anymore administrative cuts happening in the near future but couldn’t make any promises.
This year’s Portales school budget is roughly $15.3 million, up from about $14.6 million last year.
The $818,000 increase in teachers’ salaries and instructional support from last year more than accounts for the budget increase.
Other cuts include money for supplies and materials for next year.
The tentative budget must go before the New Mexico State Department of Education for final approval. The NMSDE plans on reviewing the budget sometime in late May.