LAPS approves 2008-2009 budget

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By Gabriel Vasquez

The Los Alamos Public School Board of Education approved the 2008-2009 budget, citing concerns over decreased enrollment and discussing ways to relieve increased costs for food services during its special board meeting Thursday.

In an attempt to make up strong financial losses caused by rising insurance rates and a drop in enrollment, School Board President Steve Girrens and other board members suggested “opening the doors” to out of district students.

“We’ve got to pay attention to numbers, and what we can possibly do to increase them,” Girrens said. “Is there something we can do to fix this? When do we open our doors to out of district students?”

Some board members responded to the idea with enthusiasm but others, like Assistant Superintendent Mary McLeod, said caution should be taken if such a decision were to be made.

“It’s not a simple thing,” she said. “We have to really look and see what we would do if we start taking out of district kids. There may not be as many people who are going to want to do this with the price of gas.”

As another alternative to increase revenue, board members discussed implementing a rate hike on school meals. A possible $.50 increase could get the food service program out of the red, which has operated at a deficit for several years, said John Wolfe, director of business services at LAPS.

“We’re seeing a trend in the food service revenue – it’s dropping,” Wolfe said. “It started a couple of years ago with the new nutrition rules that went into play. We’re serving less meals, but our cost is not decreasing because the cost of food is increasing.”

Wolfe also suggested that raising the price of meals had the potential to have the reverse effect, and parents would be more likely to send students to school with home lunches. He said the plan merited further discussion but all the scenarios had to be discussed before action was taken.

In other business, the board approved the submission of the “IDEA-B” proposal, an application to enroll in a federal entitlement program that provides monies for children with disabilities in public and nonpublic schools. If approved, the IDEA-B program would allocate $792,682 for K-12 and $19,963 for preschool.

Other measures approved during Thursday’s meeting were the contracting of a new audit firm, Griego Professional Services (GPS), the creation of a new Request for Proposal to facilitate the search for a superintendent and a charter to maintain the 20-year Facilities Renewal program aligned with the school district’s fundamental mission.

The meeting closed with discussion of possible locations for a new LAPS central office, and a review of the findings from this year’s “Pride” survey, an evaluation of students’ alcohol, tobacco and drug use in the district.

The survey indicated that alcohol and drug use had significantly decreased among students of all grades, with the biggest decrease occurring in current high school seniors.

“Our students, at every grade, are below the national average for alcohol use,” said LAPS prevention specialist Georgina Williams.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for June 10, in the LAPS boardroom.