School board approves $62.6 million budget

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By Whitney Jones

The Los Alamos Board of Education unanimously approved its overall $62.6 million budget for the upcoming school year.

The money includes funding for a three percent pay increase to classified employees or non-instructional staff.

Of that $62.6 million, $34.4 million is appropriated for operational expenses.

Last week, the board approved additional funding for line items that had been slashed previously as part of cost-saving efforts.

That funding increase is a result of additional revenue coming in because enrollment is up.

Of those line items is funding for next year’s school board election, additional professional development opportunities for teachers, and funding for grounds maintenance.

The budget is due to the state Public Education Department by the end of the month for approval.

The board also addressed construction of the Los Alamos Middle School.

After a two-round bidding war, the board awarded the Los Alamos Middle School construction project to McCarthy beating out two other companies for the project.

The board approved the project for $18,213,354. That’s higher than the $13.5 million estimate, but the board determined that requesting McCarthy hire inferior subcontractors to lower the cost wouldn’t be a wise choice, District Superintendent Gene Schmidt said.

But he said because all the bids were within $365,000 of each other, the $18 million price tag is a good estimate of the project’s true cost.

He added that value-engineering negotiations would occur with McCarthy once the bid is awarded to determine if that cost can be lowered.

Gerald Martin Owner’s Representative for the project David Wharram said any of the bidders on the project could do the job.

“All the companies are quite capable of carrying out the project,” he said.

But June Gladney, who facilitated the bid review discussions, called McCarthy’s proposal “top notch,” and said the company would be very conscious of the surrounding neighborhoods throughout construction.

The project is expected to be complete within eight months.