Enrollment affects Farmington's future budget

Aztec Municipal School District will look at preliminary budget of $22.73 million for upcoming school year

Joshua Kellogg
Bluffview Elementary School kindergarten students listen as teacher Grace Coleman reads to them in January at the school in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The Aztec and Farmington school boards will vote Thursday on approving preliminary budgets for the upcoming school year at a time when both districts are working to manage decreases in enrollment.

The Farmington Municipal School District projects its expenses for the 2016-2017 school year will be about $79.17 million, while revenue will be about $74.88 million, said district Chief Financial Officer Randy Bondow.

The preliminary figures are based on Bondow’s presentation to the district’s budget committee on April 5.

About $4.29 million in cuts may be required to balance the district’s budget after enrollment dropped by 141 students from 2014-2015 school year to the current one — the largest enrollment drop in the last decade, Bondow said.

“It’s going to be very challenging to get there,” Bondow said of balancing the budget.

Enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year was 11,068 students, and the count for the current year is 10,927 students.

While enrollment in Farmington middle and high school showed only minor changes, elementary school enrollment decreased by 157 students, dropping from 5,604 students last school year to 5,447 students this year.

The district is looking to make up the budget deficit by not filling certain positions as employees retire and resign in the next few months, Bondow said.

In August or September, he said the district will determine whether budget cuts will be necessary or if the district will use its cash balance to make up the difference.

About $1.06 million in additional expenses are included in the upcoming school year's budget, compared to the current year. An increase in medical benefits will cost the district about $467,000, and salary raises for teachers who move up a tier in the state’s licensure system will cost about $500,000, according to Bondow.

About a $200,000 increase in athletics expenses is being projected after class realignments from New Mexico Activities Association bumped up Piedra Vista High School from 5A to 6A starting next school year. The costs are related to additional transportation that will be required for teams to compete at high schools in the Albuquerque area, Bondow said.

On Thursday, the Aztec Municipal School District's board will vote on a preliminary budget of $22.73 million for the 2016-2017 school year, according to Gary Martinez, the district's director of finance.

That budget is an increase of more than $925,000 compared to the $21.8 million estimated budget for the current school year. The estimated budget for the current year is lower than the $22.7 million budget set at the start of the year.

Martinez said savings from job vacancies occurred because it has been difficult to hire teachers to fill positions.

“We had difficulty hiring teachers, especially (special education) teachers,” Martinez said. “It’s a problem statewide.”

Enrollment declined by 86 students, dropping from 3,172 in the 2014-2015 school year to 3,086 in the current school year, Martinez said.

Leaving certain positions vacant has also helped offset a loss of state funding due to enrollment in the upcoming budget, Martinez said.

The board will also discuss a proposal to provide a one-time stipend to full-time employees to pay for the increase in medical benefits.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.