Schools preparing for budget cuts

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Area schools are waiting for Gov. Bill Richardson to sign a package of measures that gives a less than 1 percent budget cut to public education.

Portales Municipal Schools officials have been preparing for the budgets cuts since last summer. The cut for Portales would be between $350,000 to $400,000 out of the operational budget, Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler said.

“We basically reduced staff,” Fowler said. “We didn’t replace people that left the district last school year, and we cut staff travel.”

Fowler said the schools have been working to cut as much as they can from operational expenses — running the schools, salaries, utilities and benefits. The school has money in a cash balance it can use for the rest of the year to help, he said.

“We were not hit as hard as we thought we would be,” Fowler said “We are fortunate it won’t have a negative effect on us.”

Portales schools personnel have been monitoring and trying to cut down on energy usage, Fowler said. He also said the schools have been using money from places other than the operational budget.

Floyd Superintendent Paul Benoit said no decisions have been made, but they are waiting to see what the impact of cuts is going to be.

“We don’t know how it is going to play out, until we hear from the governor,” Benoit said. “He hasn’t signed anything yet.”

Benoit hopes there won’t be any major program changes, but he knows the school is going to have to run on a tighter budget. Benoit said salaries have gone up, but the funding hasn’t kept up with salaries, utilities, benefits and insurance costs.

“Any cuts that are made are huge for small schools,” Benoit said.

Benoit said once the governor signs the bill and the state Public Education Department looks over it, each school’s cut is going to be different.

Clovis Municipal Schools leaders are collecting ideas and looking into ways of cutting corners without hurting education programs.

Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said nothing is certain until the governor signs those bills.

“Assuming nothing changes, Clovis is going to be down $600,000 this year,” Seidenwurm said. “We have been visiting with our campuses, with our central office staff, maintenance, operations staff and all of our departments, basically for the last couple of weeks to see what they suggest cutting.”

Seidenwurm said officials are looking into things that won’t affect the programs the school runs to help students with their education. Clovis schools have a hold on hiring new employees, but the Legislature asked districts not to change anyone’s salary, she said.