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Though officials have taken a very conservative approach with the numbers, the Los Alamos Public School District is projecting a $2.9 million deficit in fiscal year 2015.
The Los Alamos Board of Education conducted a work session Thursday to discuss the issue.
Factors district officials included in their projections included hikes in health care costs, and increases in utility rates, along with regular salary increases.
“Utility rate increases are budgeted as per discussion with Los Alamos County as follows: electric reflects a 6 percent (increase) for FY15, gas reflects a 5 percent increase in FY15 and a 10 percent increase in FY18, water reflects a 5 percent increase in FY15 and FY16,” according to a statement in a worksheet on the session.
While a reduction in teaching staff was included in the district’s projections. Possible school closings or support staff reductions were not.
“No cuts for classified staff are addressed in this analysis; classified staffing levels will still be required to support school sites at their levels,” read the statement, which included teacher assistants, secretaries, clerks and custodians in the analysis.
Driving the deficit is also a projected steady decline in enrollment, which is where a reduction in teacher positions came from.
This year, the district student population is at 3,544, which is less than the 3,580 district officials were expecting.
According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt, though they won’t have any real numbers until the actual fiscal year arrives, they’ve decided to start planning now to attack the projected deficit.
Two things for that are very important right now; the district’s master’s degree program and its lobbying efforts to pay Level One teachers a living wage. He said it’s important to keep the teachers they have now and to make working in the Los Alamos Public Schools attractive.
Saying that a master’s degree can add at least $10,000 to a teacher’s salary, he said it was important they make it easy for teachers to get their master’s.
“It’s also important we pay our Level One Teachers a living wage,” he said, noting the state currently pays those teachers a starting salary of $33,000. “We would like to see the legislature boost that to $45,000.”
Members of the Los Alamos Board of Education are due to take up the issue at its next session Nov. 12.