LAPS ponders budget decisions

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Survey results will be unveiled at April 21 budget meeting

By Jennifer Garcia

For the past several months, the Los Alamos Public Schools have been talking about making cuts to their budget. Now it’s time to take action.


Faced with cutting approximately $1 million from the budget, the Long Range Financial Planning Committee and school administrators are mulling over the surveys that were recently sent to the community, in which values were placed on school programs.

LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said the surveys will be used to guide the budget-cutting decisions. On April 21, a budget meeting will be held during which the committee’s discussions will be unveiled to the public.

During the legislative session, Gov. Susana Martinez said districts could expect to make a 1.5 percent reduction in their budgets, however, Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera recently announced that the unit value used in school funding is down by 3.4 percent, rather than the 1.5 percent Martinez talked about.

Districts already were anticipating cuts because of a halt in federal stimulus dollars and lower state funding.

Now they are faced with having to make even deeper cuts.

LAPS Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said in a recent interview, “In the meeting, we’re going to go through the survey and talk to the public and lay out where we stand because we’ll have a better outlook.”

During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Schmidt said that some very special benchmarks have been accomplished in recent weeks.

“We know the unit value. Now we’re waiting for how many students we will get credit for.”

The unit value is now $3,585, down from $3,606.40 for the 2010-2011 school year. LAPS has 24 more students this year than it did last year, which results in an extra $75,000 for the district.

Schmidt said the committee has made a lot of progress in identifying what programs are important and how much they will cost.

School Board President Melanie McKinley said the last meeting the committee had was different because they discussed which cuts will be presented to the board.

“We’re coming closer,” McKinley said. “We’re waiting for final numbers.”

LAPS has also reached out to Los Alamos County for help. McKinley said the county has been receptive to helping the schools and said LAPS is looking for assistance with the school resource officer, the warehouse and aquatic center, to name a few items.

“We’re being bold in what we’re asking for,” McKinley said.

She also said they’re asking the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation for assistance.

“We usually do $27,000 in professional development. We’re also asking them to help us out with credit recovery,” McKinley said.

Another item on their wish list is Rachel’s Challenge, a program at Los Alamos Middle School, which costs the district about $5,000.

“We’re grateful to the committee, who’s willing to have these discussions, even though they’re painful,” McKinley said.

The public is encouraged to attend the April 21 meeting. The time and place have not yet been announced.