College feels economic crunch

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By Carol A. Clark

UNM-Los Alamos is feeling the pinch affecting so many institutions and businesses these days. Department heads expressed the challenges they are facing during an Advisory Board meeting Monday evening in the Student Center.


“The news going into 2010 is that we’ve been buffered…so we’re going to have to tighten our belts to the tune of $65,000,” Campus Resources Director Lisa Clough said, adding that $65,000 is less than 1 percent of the school’s budget and something that is doable.


The overall budget for the college is about $5 million and some $2.7 million is from the state, she said.


“It feels like a bleak situation here,” said advisory board member Marie Chiravalle. UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page explained that there are things the college can do to help the situation.


“There’s the possibility of a tuition increase, fee increases, increases in the mil and on the expense side there are certainly some things we’ll consider,” Page told the board.


Steve Ciddio has worked at UNM-LA for 16 years. He is president of the Staff Development Committee and explained that the committee intends to do its part to help the situation.


“We all understand that times are tough right now…One of the things we’ve decided to do is get out in the community and let them know we’re here,” he said.


Cindy Leyba, Los Alamos Site manager for bachelor and graduate programs addressed the board.


“We’re in just as bad shape,” she said. “We’re also going to be asking for money from the main campus as opposed to turning over 5 percent to them.”


In its ongoing efforts to strengthen its relationship with Los Alamos Public Schools, UNM-LA decided to forego a mil levy campaign this year so as not to interfere with the GO Bond election LAPS is holding in the later part of January.


“LAPS has done an excellent job in outlining its facility maintenance needs,” Advisory Board Chair Mike Wismer said. “We want to support the schools in whatever way we can in this bond.”


Board member Ron Dolin disagreed saying, “My position is we shouldn’t have a position. This is something that goes out to the voters and has nothing to do with us.”


Nelson Hoffman posed the question, “Isn’t it in our area of interest to have the schools solvent…?”


The college leases buildings from LAPS but Superintendent Mary McLeod, who attended Monday’s meeting with her business director John Wolfe, explained that the upcoming bond will pay for renovations at Aspen, the middle school and the high school.


“Design plans for Aspen will be drawn up from the first bond but not put in place until the next bond,” McLeod said. “The reason we picked the middle school and high school is because every student in the district will attend those school.”


Wolfe added that the schools have a 20-year plan to ultimately improve all of the schools, “because obviously, there’s a need at all of them.”


Hoffman explained that probably the biggest support the college could give the schools is to step aside and let LAPS have its bond election. “We’ve done that and that’s probably the biggest help we can give,” he said.


Chiravalle agreed.


“Every department at the college is in need but the college has stepped aside to allow LAPS to move forward with its bond,” she said.


Ballots for the LAPS bond will be mailed out to Los Alamos County residents in late January, McLeod said.


The UNM-LA Advisory Board has three members up for reelection in February including, Dolin, Hoffman and Linda Daly.


The next board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Jan. 12 in the Student Center. The meeting is open to the public.