LAPS grapples with shortfall

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Superintendent to recommend list of cuts during Thursday evening’s school board meeting

By Carol A. Clark

The Los Alamos Board of Education met in open session Friday to discuss critical issues involving the district’s $1.8 million 2010-2011 school year operating budget shortfall.

“Two factors drive this reduction in revenues,” LAPS Business Manager John Wolfe said. “First, the state is receiving less revenue than anticipated and despite working during the recent legislative session to raise taxes and implement other measures, revenues will fall short. That’s affecting us by $800,000.”

The situation with the state could worsen, he said, if reports now circulating of legislators holding a special session in October to address even more cuts to education come true, adding that for now, the board is attempting to hold cuts to an absolute minimum.

“Secondly, the board asked us not to use lease funds in next year’s budget whereas this year we did budget $1 million from lease funds — so that accounts for the additional million dollars we must make up some where else,” Wolfe said.

The board spent nearly three hours Friday exploring a wide array of possible cost cutting measures to make up the $1.8 million shortfall, Wolfe said.

Based on those discussions, Superintendent Gene Schmidt

intends to submit the following recommendations to board members at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Piñon Elementary School:

•Eliminate 3.5 Full Time Employees (FTE) in the central office administrative staff;

•reduce one social worker position by .4 FTE;

•reduce one diagnostician position by .1 FTE;

•eliminate one hardware technician contract;

•eliminate current “contact” positions/re-structure to create two special education program support specialists;

•eliminate the library technical services department;

•eliminate one-half of high school department secretary instructional assistant positions;

•eliminate professional leave during the school day;

•eliminate one elementary school librarian;

•eliminate 4.8 site technician positions;

•eliminate two maintenance positions;

•eliminate a part-time prevention specialist secretary; and

•eliminate 3.25 regular school site instructional assistants.

“This is not something that’s unique to Los Alamos — it’s happening all over the state,” Wolfe said. “Some of these cuts will be accomplished through attrition but there will obviously be some staff members who will be affected.”

Options considered during Friday’s meeting, which Schmidt said he will not recommend to the board, include cuts to elementary school arts, music and physical education programs. Also considered then rejected, were suggestions to preserve just four elementary school librarians and two secondary school librarians.

“Those programs will remain intact for now,” Wolfe said.

Board members also considered combining elementary school classes, reducing work time for unlicensed hourly classified staff, mandating two district-wide furlough days, cutting athletic programs including transportation and coach salaries as well as math, reading and technology instructional coach salaries. Those ideas were all rejected, Wolfe said.

Suggestions to eliminate the schools’ prevention specialist position, school site stipends and the restructuring and consolidating of White Rock elementary schools were all rejected as well, he said.

“The recommendations, which I will present to the board, are difficult to make,” Schmidt said in an e-mail to staff. “I do so with a heavy heart. It is my hope to visit the schools and departments impacted by my recommendations in the hopes of meeting and explaining why these decisions were made.”