AZTEC — Aztec Municipal School officials said a district budget increase of about $1 million will be used to reinstate teaching positions cut or frozen to reduce costs and to increase district salaries by 4 percent.
Members of the Aztec Board of Education approved the proposed $22 million budget for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year during its meeting Thursday night.
The budget increase comes from state funding and will pay for 3 percent of the district's salary increases with the district paying the remaining 1 percent.
District superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the district is in a better position after reducing operations and personnel costs by about $667,000 last year to handle a revenue shortfall.
"We're not having discussions about what we have to cut, we're not cutting staff," Carpenter said. "We're finally able to look at reducing class sizes a little bit."
Five teacher positions will be filled that were cut or placed on a hiring freeze in previous years for district schools.
Aztec High School will get a new industrial arts teacher, Koogler Middle School will get new math and language arts teachers, a new fourth-grade teacher will be hired for Park Avenue Elementary and Lydia Rippey elementary school will get a new second-grade teacher.
Finance Director Gary Martinez said the district is being conservative about the number of staff it has added and cut in recent years.
"Our efforts to reduce staffing have been strategic," Martinez said. "We've tried to reduce manpower in administration in order to shift more dollars to salaries or more people on the instruction side."
Carpenter said the district was only able to give a 5-percent salary increase across the previous six years.
"For a lot of our educators, that's all they have seen," Carpenter said. "In many respects, it's been a decrease because of cost of living (increases)."
By hiring the teachers, adding a custodial position and fulfilling the salary increases, the district will have to use about $460,000 from its cash fund balance.
"We can eat a little bit into our savings this year and add these positions and right size this year," Carpenter said.
Martinez said the estimated cost of increasing benefits was about $722,000 for a total of $5.489,000 next year,
That includes coverage of the new hires and about a 0.5 to 0.6 percent increase in costs for insurance and pension payments.
Carpenter said while he was elated about the increase to this year's budget, he says the district has cut about 25 to 30 certified or teacher positions in the last five years.
"These are positions that are not even getting us close to where we used to be in our district," Carpenter said. "We're still way off of where we were."