LAPS officials mull refund

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Education > State seeks to recoup funds paid in error

By Tris DeRoma

It looks like the Los Alamos Public School District will have to give back the money after all.

A few weeks ago, the New Mexico Public Education Department announced that it had made an accounting error when it came to distributing funds meant to compensate school systems for the number of “at-risk” students they are educating. At-risk students are considered to be students who don’t attend school regularly, cannot speak English, or are considered living below the poverty level.

The amount LAPS is going to have to refund the state amounts to $218,076.73.

On Tuesday, LAPS school officials, including Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe and Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt, met with officials from the PED over the issue.

At first, the PED said they were going to let the school districts that were affected keep the money, but then they decided not to.

“They received some feedback from various folks, and they found they had to take it back because of the legal issues involved,” Wolfe said.

Though the school board has not been consulted yet, they are meeting with the board this Thursday to discuss the issue, Schmidt and Wolfe both said the most likely option they will settle on is paying it back through the next school year.

“That option sounded like the least objectionable to us,” Wolfe said. “We will pay it back a little bit at a time, and that should minimize the impact.”

Schmidt said there is a bright side to all this; the funding they will have to give back may be cancelled out through additional compensation the district is expecting this year through special education funding.

“The nice part about this is that it looks like they are going to give us a modest increase in some special education funding that will just about offset what they will be taking back. I will be talking to the board about that as well,” Schmidt said.

The error was due to an alphabetical listing problem, where the PED put “West Las Vegas” in the wrong slot, causing funding miscalculations in about 50 school districts that were below West Las Vegas on the list.