School board approves tight budget

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A frugal budget for the Clovis Municipal Schools was approved unanimously Tuesday by school board members.

The roughly $50 million budget fell short of the needs of the 18-school district by about $1.4 million, according to Clovis Schools administrators. Compensation came largely in the form of staff cuts.

Fifteen teaching positions, 14 educational assistant positions, three full-time and two-part time administrative positions will be left vacant for 2006-2007 school year to free up funds for state-mandated raises, the budget shows.

The raises were not funded as a result of an executive veto in the last legislative session.

“They (lawmakers) don’t seem to see that we are already stretching,” school board member Lora Harlan said.

“Schools are going to get to places where we have to do things we really,” she emphasized, “don’t want to do.”

The staff cuts were tempered through attrition, and affected staff members were offered other positions within the district, school officials have said.

Some monetary incentives given to Clovis teachers for extra duties, called increments, were also sliced from the budget. Teachers will no longer be given compensation (which in some cases meant just $1 or $2) to watch students on playgrounds. Fine arts funding previously allotted to elementary schools has been cut. And some teachers have agreed to relinquish their planning periods and teach all day next year, school officials said.

Additional money-saving measures include the funneling of previously earmarked arts funds into the operational budget, the merger of two elementary schools — Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy and Bella Vista — and reverting to the traditional six-period schedule at the Clovis High School.

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said, “Playground duty is part of the job of being a teacher,” and other increment cuts were “obvious” duties that came along with teaching.

In accordance with state mandates, raises for Clovis teachers and non-certified staff will be 5 percent, and educational assistants will receive raises of 9.5 percent, school officials said. Clovis schools administrators are receiving an average 3-percent raise, Clovis Schools Director of Finance Michael Erwin said.

Despite the cuts, which cork the $1.4 million shortfall, Seidenwurm said the budget is the tighest she has seen. Utilities and uncertainties about the future of Cannon Air Force Base could easily draw the district into the red, she said.

Other school districts in the state have also made sacrifices to fund the salary increases.

Las Cruces, Gadsden and Santa Fe each plan to cut 25 to 30 positions. Roswell and Hobbs are drawing from cash reserves to mitigate the financial drain, according to Seidenwurm.