In a file photo dated Friday, April 19. 2013, students at Grace B. Wilson Elementary School eat lunch in the cafeteria.
In a file photo dated Friday, April 19. 2013, students at Grace B. Wilson Elementary School eat lunch in the cafeteria. (The Daily Times file photo)
SHIPROCK — Central Consolidated School District parents and employees were alarmed this week when they heard the district was going to cut all elementary school music programs next school year.

The district decided not to but it almost did. It is facing a $4 million budget shortfall that is expected to lead to both program cuts and employee layoffs.

No one has been laid off yet, said school district spokesman James Preminger, though school principals have started to tell their staff that layoffs may be in the future.

"Originally, it was thought that there weren't going to be music programs in the elementary schools," Preminger said. "My understanding is that the principals gave the staff a head's up."

The proposal is off the table now, Preminger said, though other measures are being considered.

The district's administration is reviewing the budget for the 2013-2014 school year and is realizing that it will have to make tough decisions.

The administration would not officially share what programs or positions were on the chopping block, but Preminger said that as many as 30 employees could be laid off.

The district is holding a special board meeting 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Shiprock to address the concerns.

"Everyone here the superintendent, the finance director they are locked in a room discussing the budget," Preminger said.

The 2012-2013 budget was about $56.2 million, about $19 million of which came from federal funding. The district is expected to receive about $4 million less in federal funding for the coming school year.

"It's devastating," Preminger said.

While the district attributes the drop in funding to sequestration automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal funding the state claims the drop is related to the district's decrease in student enrollment, according to Larry Behrens, spokesman for the New Mexico Public Education Department.

CCSD projected about 250 fewer students next year, which decreases the district's funding.

"We fully expect the district to first look at vacant administration positions and other options to bring their budget in line with what students need," Behrens said in an email Thursday.

For the past decade, the district has been losing about 150 students each year, a trend that the district blames on the community's few housing and job opportunities, Preminger said. The district has about 6,000 students now, he said.

For the last several years, the district has suffered cuts to its federal funding. Over the past three school years, the district has seen an $11 million decrease in federal dollars.

Preminger said that the district was able to absorb the majority of cuts in the past through attrition employees resigning or retiring but that may not be enough this year.

The district has reduced all of its staffing and programs to a "skeleton," Preminger said.

"We're using all of our budget," he said.

Jenny Kane can be reached at jkane@daily-times.com; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.