by Marty Mayfield
RATON – Raton Public School’s budget woes continue as the Raton School Board tabled a final decision on the budget at Monday evening’s board meeting.
Board members had been informed the school district would lose an additional $500,000 for the next school year. This all began with the consolidation which in the beginning would save the school district $700,000 to $800,000 and because of the school funding formula changes with size the district learned they would lose about $382,000 in size units. That left the district with a savings of around $400,000. Not a bad figure until the budget process started this spring and the district treasurer Lita Sanchez found out about an additional size unit funding formula difference. This difference occurred due to moving the seventh and eighth grade students to the high school. This news came late, as late as March and the state admits it didn’t tell the district and the board and/or superintendent didn’t ask. As Dr. Neal Terhune told KRTN on Tuesday this one falls on him but there is plenty of blame to go around as several people could have caught this error but didn’t. He says he relied on the experts to tell him but somewhere that process failed.
The other question is why does a school district get penalized for being economically thrifty? The way the school funding formula works is that as you combine students in one building you become more efficient so you don’t need as much money to operate thus you lose building funding. The high school went from just over 200 students to close to 400 students which is a key factor in the funding formula. While the state admits the error in not telling the district they will give the district $385,000 to help cover the deficit for the upcoming school year and about half that for the next school year. The district then will have to learn how to live within the budget of a 925 student three building district within the state of New Mexico.
Other hits to the budget include $250,000 in special ed funding once again in size units as well as kindergarten size units. The district also lost monies due to enrollment decline and when you put it all together it adds up to $1.2 million.
The district will continue to deal with declining enrollment. As Ortiz prepares to move into the superintendent job he will not have a clear indication of enrollment, especially kindergarten until a week or so before the school year begins. Also with Ortiz moving to the central office they will move RMA Principal Kim Sanchez to Longfellow and Christy Medina will return to RMA.
Ortiz also noted that he doesn’t have a solid number on teachers leaving, retiring or resigning at this point as well. He will look at the numbers as he gets them and will determine if the positions can be combined or if they deal with credits replacing that teacher. Ortiz will look to parents to become more involved in the teaching process over the next year and is hoping that parents will get more involved in the discipline issues as well. He is looking for cooperation within the community and will continue to pursue projects and funding such as the Youth Conservation Corp work the students under Mark Honeyfield did the last three years. He noted it does take a community to raise a child and hopes that he can bring the teachers, the parents and the community together as the school year progresses.