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School board passes budget

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As one of its last official acts of this year, the Los Alamos Public Schools passed a $37.9 million operational school budget for 2014-15. That’s a $1.3 million increase from last year’s budget, which was about $36 million. According to district officials, the extra income comes directly from the state.
“That was through the additional funding that the legislature provided to all school districts. That $1.3 million was our share of that state distribution,” said the school district’s chief financial officer, John Wolfe.
The board has also honored the state’s request that all teachers in the system recieve a 3 percent raise.
If this year’s operational budget had a financial priority, it was to cut down on class size, especially in the elementary school levels. In addition to passing the budget, the board also voted to add three elementary school teachers to the elementary schools most impacted by a “bubble” that had swelled some classes, mainly in Aspen, Mountain and Barranca Mesa, to 25 students or more. That will cost $240,000. With salary and benefits, that comes out to about $80,000 each, according to Wolfe, who also added that’s more than an entry level teacher’s salary, but less than a “Level 3” teacher.
Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt agreed with the board, and welcomed its decision.
“It acted on the belief that class size is something very important to the community, that having small class sizes is something the community values,” he said.

The board also opted to continue funding professional development, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the National Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“The board has also showed a strong belief in professional development in their support of the district’s Master’s Degree program, as well as our efforts to take teachers through the National Board Certification process,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt also noted that the board also used the state funds to absorb a healthy percentage of health and pension costs.
“There was a lot of board support to really help put money back in the teacher’s pockets by picking up the higher percentage of health costs,” Schmidt said.

Another item Schmidt was glad to see in the budget was the board’s commitment to the “Early College in the High School” program, the planning of which was funded by a $100,000 grant from the governor’s office last year. This year, Schmidt said the board has backed that planning with funding to get the program off the ground.
“We are grateful to the board for giving a new generation of kids the college experience through the Early College in the High School program,” Schmidt said.