School board passes lean budget

By Gary Mitchell

After juggling figures for several days and trying to trim jobs in the school district, Clovis school administrators presented what they described as a “lean, mean” budget of $58 million to school board members Tuesday.
Board members agreed, approving the budget unanimously.
The budget had to be cut back as a result of this year’s unfunded state mandate for an across-the-board raise for teachers. The state Legislature required school districts to pay for the salary hikes by pulling money from their cash balances and cutting operational expenses.
“We met with the state Department of Education last Friday and worked on our budget,” said Clovis school superintendent Neil Nuttall. “The Legislature has dug themselves a $45 million hole. We can’t keep moving money from one side of our budget to the other. If the Legislature doesn’t fill that hole, we’ll have to make some serious adjustments next year.”
To meet the budget and state mandates, the school district either absorbed or eliminated 22 positions, Nuttall said.
“It keeps us from laying off people or reducing programs,” he said. “I feel good about the budget. Our staff has put out extraordinary efforts to make the budget work, and we put some safeguards in it for next year.
“The most exciting thing to me is that we’ll be able to increase our salaries for our staff,” he said. “They deserve those increases, and we’re glad to be able to do it.”
Debbie Zurzolo, director of finance for Clovis schools, said the new budget will accomplish state Legislature goals.
“We’ve been able to meet the requirements of the state Legislature, and we’re able to provide salary increases of 6 percent for teachers and 3 percent for other staff,” she said. “We were able to transfer 1 percent of our operating budget ($411,000) to the direct instruction category.”
Zurzolo said the district was able to absorb to the 20 percent increase in medical insurance for staff and the 18 percent increase in general liability insurance as well.
“I thought they did an excellent job on the budget,” said Mark Lansford, a board member who also is a certified public accountant. “I quizzed them this morning on several things, and they answered all my questions very satisfactorily. They’ve worked very hard on this budget, and they deserve a lot of accolades.”
Since the school district’s budget was initially drafted in April on estimated figures to get it to the state on time, Zurzolo presented approximately 40 budget adjustment requests to balance the budget according to state mandates. The state requires the school district to have its budget back to state officials by Friday.