Teachers to get pay hike

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Education: Board prioritizes use of $1.1 million revenue gain

By Whitney Jones

As part of the Los Alamos Public School Board’s budget approval for next year, certified employees (instructional staff) will receive a 3 percent raise —the first bump in four years.

The board has yet to determine or formalize a raise for classified employees, a group that includes administrative support and maintenance.

The Los Alamos Public School District’s operating budget will remain relatively flat with a few adjustments as a result of higher revenue from larger enrollment numbers.

This year’s entire school budget is projected to be $62 million, with about $34 million for operational expenses. That's a little more than $1 million over the current fiscal year budget.

As part of the increased funding, the board presented a list of 33 items that they would like to see funded, but wanted public input as to which of the items should receive priority funding.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday to fund 24 of those items totaling approximately $1.7 million. Additional funding for the items will come from the district’s lease fund consisting of revenue generated from the district’s various leases — of which the board can spend up to $1 million per year, District Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said.

Board member Melanie McKinley cautioned the about spending money from the lease fund asking that the governing body be careful about using the money for recurring expenses, which could wind up leaving the district in a hole.

“We need to do it in a way that’s sustainable for the future,” she said.

Wolfe said the list presented to the board included a scoring system based on public feedback on funding priorities to which the board also added one technology employee at Chamisa Elementary, a part time technology employee at the middle school and one maintenance employee to the district.

Included in the funded items is a 3 percent pay increase for certified employees, funding for next year’s school board election, three additional full-time teachers to keep class size down, funding for teacher national board certifications, additional professional development opportunities, seasonal grounds employees and custodial supplies.

“Boy, it’s easy to spend money,” Board President Kevin Honnell joked as the board had nearly completed compiling the list of funding priorities.

McKinley said the three-hour budget meeting was the best she’d ever been to.

Wolfe said the budget has to be turned into the state Public Education Department by the end of the month for approval.