District facing $700K shortfall

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

Projections indicate Los Alamos Public Schools may fall short in budget revenue by some $700,000 next year. John Wolfe, director of business services at LAPS,  told school board members Tuesday evening that he hopes he’s wrong but it looks like it’s going to fall short.

One issue throwing the $38 million budget out of kilter is the insurance rate hikes that occurred this year, Wolfe said. Another major impact, he said, is the fact that LAPS saw a significant drop in enrollment. “Our enrollment figure was down by 100 kids and that equates to roughly $400,000 less funding (from state),” Wolfe said. “This is also a concern for next year and any trend that might entail.”

The vast majority of the district’s budget goes to salaries and benefits, Wolfe said.

Superintendent James Anderson agreed and explained that just $3.8 million falls outside salaries.

“Most of the $3.8 million is for insurance and utilities,” Anderson said.

School Board Vice President Joan Ahlers congratulated district staff, pointing out that in spite of the insurance rate hikes and financial hit incurred from declined enrollment, they did a good job of controlling expenses.

Fortunately, the district has a safety net should the shortfall bear true. LAPS has a $1.9 million cash carryover it can draw from if the need arises, Wolfe said.

Wolfe told board members that staff will continue to refine the budget and present the completed version to them at the May 22 school board meeting for final approval.

The board, in other business, approved 5-to-0 a resolution for bus drivers. The resolution requests from the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority that the district be permitted to continue to authorize participation in the employee lines of benefits coverage to part-time employees who work fewer than 20 hours but not less than 15 hours per week.

The board also approved 5-to-0 an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) grant application, which will amount to nearly $80,000 in operational money.

Executive Director Linda Daly of The Family YMCA presented a letter of intent to continue, with modifications, the current “Agreement to Exchange Use of Facilities for Services” between the Y and the schools.

For more than 15 years the two organizations have continued a partnership that has been mutually beneficial and rewarding to the community, especially parents needing affordable childcare, she said.

Teachers and other school employees receive free YMCA memberships in exchange for facilities made available to the Y for its after-school program.

“This is an awesome way to help with perks for the teachers,” board member Alison Beckman said.

Anderson agreed, saying, “For the teachers who take advantage of it, it is an awfully nice thing and it’s worth some money, too.”

The modification Daly requested to the agreement involves converting school employees who retire to regular membership status. Any joining fees would be waived, she said.

Daly and the board discussed at length the need for after-school activities on Wednesdays, when students attend classes just half the day. The main issue is the difficulty for the Y to find someone willing to work such few hours. Beckman suggested the Y pay a school district aide.

The board tabled the item until the next meeting to allow time to research how many parents have a need for the Wednesday after-school program.

In another matter, the board voted 5-to-0 to renew the lobbyist $10,000 contract for Scott Scanland d.b.a. New Mexico Government Affairs. The board modified the contract to require that Scanland attend a minimum of two school board meetings during the contract year. The scope of work states that the board retains Scanland as an independent contractor to lobby on its behalf with the New Mexico Legislature and the United States Congress.

The next school board meeting is set for May 22. The meeting is open to the public.