School board anticipates budget deficit

CNJ staff

A combination of inflation and New Mexico’s state budget problems have the Clovis Municipal Schools projecting a nearly $700,000 deficit for the 2009-10 school year.

Chief Financial Officer Jose Cano painted a broad, but sobering look to the school board Tuesday night regarding what to expect with cuts in state funding and spikes in utility and employee benefit costs.

State funding could drop as much as $289,000 while medical benefits are expected to rise $345,000 and utilities are set to go up by $115,000, Cano reported.

Other areas predicted for increases include retirement contributions and basic life insurance plans given to every employee ($32,000). Seidenwurm said items such as the life insurance are necessary perks for faculty and staff, especially when there are no plans for raises.

Cano said the figures given do not account for any funding increase should the school see a population spike due to families moving in for Cannon Air Force Base’s new mission. He said the school would need an increase beyond 1 percent growth for such an increase.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The board meeting ended at 11 p.m. following a three-hour executive session covering a possible extension of Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm’s contract.

“The board and I have things we want to talk about,” said Seidenwurm, who said much still needed to be revisited. “It was a very positive conversation.”

• Seidenwurm is looking into the possibility of moving Clovis High School to a schedule with seven instructional periods.

Clovis High School currently requires 24 credits for graduation. Since the CHS Freshman Campus has seven periods and CHS has six periods, that gives students 25 classes over four years to earn those credits.

That creates problems, Seidenwurm said, for struggling students and honors students. For struggling students, they can only fail one class before they are in danger of needing to attend summer school or an extra year of instruction. The bigger concern, according to Seidenwurm, comes from students looking to stock up their college credentials with advanced placement, fine arts and foreign language classes.

“They’re often involved in band and athletics,” Seidenwurm said, “so they have a hard time getting everything in that they want to take.”

Seidenwurm has visited schools in Hobbs, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque to see what successes and failures those schools had with similar changes, and would like to make a change in the 2010-11 school year at the earliest so there’s time to ensure a smooth transition.

• The board introduced board policy regarding home-schooled students and their eligibility for extracurricular activities, but did not take action.

Legislation passed last year by the state, not yet addressed by Clovis school policy, allows home-schooled students to participate in one school district athletic activity sanctioned by the New Mexico Activities Association.

Board member Max Best said he wanted to be sure such students were following the same team rules as other participants, and other members questioned how those students’ grades and school attendance would be measured.

Seidenwurm said their questions reflect why the NMAA has been working so long on such a policy, because so many eligibility issues aren’t verifiable beyond what the students’ parent tells them.

She said she could only think of three students taking advantage of such programs — one in band, one on a middle-school football team and one in choir.