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West chief: Funding to be bleak

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Raises unlikely next year

By Don Pace

West Las Vegas superintendent Ruben Cordova briefed board members on a number of topics during a special meeting at Valley school last week, including how much state money the district can expect after the 60-day legislative session ends later this month.

“I don’t have all the information today because the Legislature hasn’t adjourned yet. They are still talking about how much money is going to be made available for running the schools in New Mexico,” Cordova said. “So we don’t know exactly what our funding is going to look like, but we know it will be less than what we had this year.”

Cordova said this is the last year schools will receive stimulus money and federal jobs dollars.

“Starting next year we will receive only state revenues. So the question is, is the state going to be able to keep the level of funding we had in years past? There is speculation that there might be a 1.5 to 2 percent decrease, which translates to about $300,000 loss in revenues for 2012,” Cordova said.

If that is the case, he said, there wouldn’t be any money for salary increases, or even money for supplies.  

“But I think we can handle all of those challenges without having to let people go,” Cordova said.

Among the other items discussed by district officials last week was the pre-kindergarten program.

Cordova called it an important program but said its indirect cost is also a drain on district finances. Among the ideas the district is considering is charging a fee.

However, the superintendent told the Optic Friday that any fees would be recouped from the state and not parents.          

“The most the district could charge in state allowed fees would be between 2 and 3 percent. It’s not a lot, but it is something this board might start thinking about because we have never charged anything for early childhood classes, yet we have oversight of pre-K, and Head Start,” Cordova said.

The superintendent said all early childhood programs are valuable to the district.
“Pre-K and Head Start provide an education for 3- and 4-year-olds so they can be more successful as they enter kindergarten,” Cordova said. “You are going to find a lot of support for a pre-K program. We’ve gone to bat for them many times, but charging a fee (to the state) is something that this board might want to consider in the future,” Cordova said.

He said it is permissible to charge a 2 percent fee.

“We do charge that interest rate to federal programs, and that money becomes operational because we do have operational functions in running the program. We handle all the paperwork for pre-K, and there’s no compensation to the district for that additional service. However, we don’t have to make a decision on this, for now, this is just a discussion,” Cordova said.