School board votes in $37.9M budget

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Budget includes 4.5% raise for all staff, teachers starting July 1

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos School Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to pass a $37.9 million budget for the 2018-19 school year.

The budget includes a 4.5 percent raise for all staff and teachers starting July 1. Raises for teachers over the last four budgets totaled 10 percent overall.

Other budget highlights included the addition of a student success coordinator at the Los Alamos Middle School, a middle school math coach and the addition of a part-time Native American liaison for the middle school.

The board began working on the budget at the beginning of the year, and prioritized the budget according to the goals and directives included in the school board’s Strategic Plan. The board adopted the Strategic Plan in April 2016. The top three priorities of the plan are student well being, student learning and teacher and staff well-being and excellence.

The suggestion to add a Native American liaison came from the district’s Native American Parent Advisory Council.

“There was a need to coordinate more closely with the tribal governors and to provide training for culturally appropriate material for students,” said Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus.

The board devoted a portion of their discussion to the Native American liaison issue, with at least one school board member wanting to expand the position into a full-time position.

“Reading the proposal for the scope of work of this person, I think it really goes beyond a half a (full-time employee) position,” Los Alamos County School Board member John Hargraves said. Hargraves later added an amendment to the budget requesting the position be funded full time.

The amendment was eventually withdrawn and the position was kept part time.

“The proposal of making it a half-time position makes sense to me,” School Board President Jenny McCumber said. “There is a long list of duties, but it’s hard to know how much time that’s going to take. To start out from not having a position to a half-time position makes a lot of sense to me.”

Other board members agreed.

“I think half-time (for initial funding) is maybe not ideal, but it’s adequate for the first year or so to see how it all plays out,” board member Ellen Ben-Naim said. “I think that makes the most sense, since they (Native American Parent

Advisory Council) came to us for a quarter-time position and we have doubled what they asked for.”

The proposed budget also allotted an annual half-time salary of $45,000 for the Native American liaison position.

Steinhaus assured Hargraves and others concerned about the list of responsibilities for the Native American liaison will be tailored for the half-time position.

“We will write the job description in a way that sets them up to meet a half-time position,” Steinhaus said.

The board also allocated $20,000 to help restore programs, hours and staffing to the New Mexico Public Health Office that was lost when the state made severe cutbacks to the office in 2016, deciding those services and staff could be better used elsewhere. The Los Alamos County Council Tuesday night set aside $80,000 for the same purpose.

According to Los Alamos Community Services Manager Brian Brogan, the funding will allow the county to negotiate with a contractor to keep the health office running as a federally qualified healthcare center.

“Now we have potentially enough money to contact them and start negotiating and come up with a solid plan going forward,” Brogan said.

Proposed hours would be from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for teens and from 4-7 p.m. for the general public, two days a week. Each day would be 10-hours long.

Proposed services include, family planning, primary medical care, all standard medical procedures, annual or sports physicals, behavioral health services, immunizations, diabetes prevention and control, nutrition counseling, weight management and asthma services.

Additional New Mexico Department of Health supplemental services include Women Infant and Children (WIC), child medical service program and others as appropriate.

Proposed staff positions include a behavioral health specialist, nurse practitioner, an assistant and an administrator.