Bloomfield schools see decrease in tax revenue

Joshua Kellogg
Daylynn Heitzenrater plays on the monkey bars on May 28, 2014, at Naaba Ani Elementary in Bloomfield.

BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield School District administrators say they are optimistic about the district’s finances, even though tax revenue has dropped more than 60 percent in the first quarter of the school year.

The district’s tax revenue for the first quarter of the school year is down more than 63 percent, falling from about $1.2 million in the first quarter of the 2014-2015 school year to about $446,000 this quarter, according to the district's director of finance, Anna Redding.

The revenue comes from taxes on oil and gas production and residential property taxes.

Superintendent Kim Mizell said she believes the district's budget for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year will be fine, but she was unsure how the drop in tax revenue will affect funding in the 2017-2018 school year.

"We don’t know what the impact will be with the economy the way it is," Mizell said.

The recent drop in tax revenue is a departure from the past two years.

From the first quarter of the 2013-2014 school year to the first quarter of the 2014-2015 school year, tax revenue increased about 66 percent, going from about $734,500 to about $1.2 million.

Tax revenue increased about 11 percent from the first quarter of the 2012-2013 school year to the first quarter of the 2013-2014 school year, rising from about $662,000 to about $734,500.

That means that over the span of three years, the district has had a nearly 14 percent gain in tax revenue, according to Redding's report, and that has helped create a healthy cash balance.

In her report to the board, Redding said the continued decline of the oil and gas industry has prompted administrators to reduce costs throughout the district to avoid dipping into the cash reserve.

Mizell said no programs or positions have been cut. She also said the district is looking at reducing staff through attrition in the next school year and shifting certain job responsibilities and prioritizing which positions need to be filled.

Redding added that a hold has been placed on creating new positions for the upcoming school year.

Tax revenue funds the district's general operations, 2 mill levy and debt services funds. About 96 percent of the district’s 2 mill levy money comes from tax revenue. That money covers the costs of repairs and maintenance at district facilities.

Redding said administrators have advised principals and department heads to be cautious when spending 2 mill money.

“We are just going to ask everyone to be very conscious of their budgets and to make sure what they are spending is something that is definitely needed,” Redding said.

Funding issues led the district to divide the nearly $800,000 cost to fix the roof at Mesa Alta Junior High School over three years. This year’s portion totals about $245,000.

Mizell said she does not know how the decrease in oil and gas tax revenue will affect funding from the state in the future.

Redding said about 30 percent of the State Equalization Guarantee Distribution funding, which provides districts money for operational costs based on enrollment, comes from New Mexico oil and gas tax revenue. This funding provides about 90 percent of operational funds for districts across the state.

“We’re just going to be very conservative with what we are doing and maintain a healthy cash balance,” Mizell said.

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