Los Lunas

Based on the 2002-2003 final budget, employees of the Los Lunas Schools can expect to see a 1- to 1.7-percent pay raise, depending on their experience and how long they’ve been with the district.

“In the budget, we’ve worked hard to offset the lack of funding and add a step-increase for all employees,” Deputy Superintendent Bill Moffatt recently told members of the Los Lunas School Board.

The average raise for teachers is 1.33 percent, according to Moffatt. For example, a teacher who has worked 11 years and has a master’s degree makes $35,400 a year. With the new budget step increase, that teacher will make $36,036 — an annual increase of $636.

Moffatt said the state has not given the Los Lunas Schools any funding for new programs during the 2002-2003 academic year.

“We’re not going backwards, but we’re not initiating any new programs either,” he said

The budget shows a funding increase of .87 percent — less than 1 percent. A new unit value — money the district receives from the state for pupils — of $2,896 represents a $25 per unit increase or an increase totaling $401,697.

The district plans to use this funding to address critical items such as restoring site office supplies for $32,000; restoring maintenance and custodial supplies for $119,080 and restoring an emergency reserve growth budget of $153,351.

The funding rise compensates the district for increased expenses in medical insurance and deductions for retirement health care. Employees will see an approximate deduction of 10 to 13 percent, Moffatt said.

Expenses have also grown in food services and revenue is down in the Los Lunas Schools. To keep costs down, the district is holding vacant cafeteria positions open until it gets $20,000 back into the budget for a salary increase.

“Last year, our expenses exceeded revenue,” Moffatt said. “We worked hard to fix that and were somewhat successful. This year, we want to get real aggressive.”

An additional cafeteria reserve of $97, 536 has been set aside for emergencies. Through cost containment, the district plans to focus on keeping extraneous spending down.

“We want to do things like lower travel expenses and overtime,” he said. “Let’s focus on student need. We don’t want people to think we’re cutting corners on food services. We still want high quality service.”

Moffatt stressed how much revenue the district brings in in its cafeterias depends on the number of students who eat at school.

“This district has the opportunity to try and increase the number of kids eating breakfast and lunch at school. For many, it’s free,” Moffatt said. “But that’s not our only concern – kids that eat well learn well. I look at this as an opportunity to get more children eating.”

In April, the business department was concerned about not having the budget dollars in place when it presented a preliminary budget to the school board. Because the governor had not approved a state budget, Moffatt said he felt the district couldn’t commit funds for next year.

“We needed time to look at the big picture,” he said. “I thought it was inappropriate to present a budget in a piecemeal fashion when it wasn’t approved statewide.”

As a result of the late budget process, the Los Lunas Schools submitted the total budget to the State Department of Education after the June 20 deadline.

“The unit value can decrease or increase depending on what the state does,” Moffatt said. “We could not address issues without knowing the final outcome. And we didn’t think it was fair not to be able to share it with the public first.”

Most significantly, the district was able to purchase critical instructional materials needed to start the next school year.

“The entire situation was extremely frustrating, but we worked hard to put it all together, to make it all fit,” Moffatt said. “I want to commend the legislature for over-riding the governor’s veto. They knew it was hurting us. You couldn’t buy books or plan.”

According to Moffatt, the district had to be innovative. “We used the money we had in the current-year budget to order next year’s books with no budget,” he said.

School Board Member Art Castillo praised Moffatt and his staff for the many hours spent dealing with the budget. “Dealing with politics, I want to commend the business office on their expertise with the budget,” Castillo said. “I support it 110 percent.”

Moffatt said one of the biggest disappointments for the district was the fact that it could not fund Project Success at Los Lunas High School in August.

The project provided two teachers who worked with at-risk students and Youth Development Inc. In 2001, Governor Gary Johnson vetoed YDI funding. A year later, the program never made it through the legislature.

“Last year, the district held it together. This year, we cannot fund it because of budget constraints,” Moffatt said.

Based on new information from the federal government, substantial changes have been made to the No Child Left Behind law, affecting elementary and secondary education.

“With all the changes, there was not enough funding. But the district was able to work through it,” Moffatt said.

While additional gross funding was added, mandated “set-aside funds” actually reduced the net amount of funds available for Title I staff.

Five percent was “set aside” for training, transportation and supplemental tutoring services. Through the combined use of both Title I and Title II funds, the program managers and business office were able to maintain the Title I teaching staff at current levels.

“However, we regret that we’re not able to maintain the paraprofessional staff levels,” Moffatt said. “As a consequence, five assistants will be placed into other open assistant positions, district-wide.”

As a priority in the budget, the district plans to focus additional resources on low-performing schools such as Tomé Elementary and Desert View Intermediate. Under Title IV, the budget makes room for safe and drug-free programs, as well as a gang intervention program at Tomé Elementary.

After-school programs will be created at Desert View Intermediate and the district will hold training sessions and will create an additional staff time for teachers.

“We want to give them all the help we can. We’ve seen incredible success at both school,” Moffatt said.

Without the unit increase, the budget for the Los Lunas Schools totaled $47,306,031. The initial budget was $65,674,647 for the 2002-03 academic year.

The budget amount increases from there as time goes on as bonds are sold and budget adjustments are made. By the end of the year, the budget will reach approximately $80 million compared to $83 million this year.

“We worked long hours to decide how funding would work with operating funds,” Moffatt said. “It all works together. This budget is effective money management.”

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Jennifer Harmon