Questions arise over beverage contract

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

School officials raised concerns Tuesday about $42,000 they feel may be owed to the district as part of a beverage contract.

Board Vice President Mark Lansford and Superintendent Neil Nuttall agree the board is owed the money from the New Mexico Research and Study Council, an Albuquerque-based group that negotiates contracts with school districts throughout the state.

Through NMRSC, the board entered into a contract with PepsiCo in May, 2000. Over the four-year period, Nuttall said the school district has not received about $42,000 in commissions.

But Nuttall said the district is in negotiation with the NMRSC over contract language, which leaves a gray area for how much the NMRSC may owe the district.

Calls to the NMRSC were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

The debate is based on a combination of “guaranteed rights fees” and “guaranteed commissions” worth about $61,000 each year. The number is based on an average estimate negotiated by the NMRSC. Nuttall said it is that money that has not been paid in full to the district.

Lansford, who called for the beverage contract issue to be on the school agenda, said he began investigating the situation when local Coca Cola officials questioned the Pepsi deal.

“They wanted to know if Pepsi was performing on their contract, and I told them, ‘Boys I don’t know but I’ll find out for you,’” Lansford said.

Nuttall said despite the missing money, the district has earned about $240,000 in four years, more than twice what he said it stood to make with a Coca Cola bid proposed in 2000.

Nuttall said vending machine commissions support activities that include uniform purchases and field trips at schools.

While there has been a difference between what Nuttall said was owed by NMRSC and what was paid since 2000, the issue was not discussed because there was not a significant difference until the third and fourth year in the contract, Nuttall said.

“It has reached the level where we felt like it was necessary. We had added interest in the contract and so we decided to pursue it,” Nuttall said.