PED accepts, approves Belen Schools 2012-13 budget

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After kicking back the Belen Consolidated Schools 2012-13 budget, the New Mexico Public Education Department approved the district's total budget, equaling to $49,404,040.

After kicking back the Belen Consolidated Schools 2012-13 budget, the New Mexico Public Education Department approved the district's total budget, equaling to $49,404,040.

PED approved the district's budget July 1 after rejecting the district's first version in late May due to a 1 percent employee salary increase.

Leslie A. Lujan, NMPED's executive budget analyst, told administrators in May PED wouldn't "approve a budget for the district which includes salaries and benefits with growth not mandated by statute" for districts with outstanding financial issues.

This refers to the delinquent submission of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 audits, which resulted in the district being mandated to submit monthly financial reports instead of quarterly reports to NMPED, beginning in March 2011.

"If I remember what Leslie, our analyst, told us is that because our audits weren't complete she wasn't 100 percent sure that that's what's going to be our cash carry over," said Superintendent Ron Marquez. "However, she also stated that she believed our cash carry over is actually going to be higher (than what we're calculating)."

The district fell behind in submitting financial reports during an administrative change of the superintendent and business and finance director and switch to a new accounting software.

Since then, the district's business and finance office submitted the 2009-10 audit to NMPED and began the 2010-11 audit, estimated to be finalized in August.

The salary increase is, however, being held in other line items, such as supplies and materials, said Director of Business and Finance George Perea.

During the mid-year budget evaluation in December, the business and finance office will review the budget's status to confirm funds are available for Belen employees to receive the 1 percent salary increase.

This is dependent upon confirmation of the cash carry over, reported to be $1,141,535 in the 2012-13 operating budget, from overdue audits and the 2011-12 audit due in November, to PED.

"I believe we are on task to do that," Marquez said.

At that point, the district can submit changes to the budget, which would include the 1 percent salary increase, to PED for approval, Perea said.

This year's operating budget of $30,875,537 decreased by more than $2 million compared to the 2011-12 operating budget of $33,016,003, Perea said. The decrease is due to a $1 million reduction in state funds resulting from a shrinkage in enrollment.

Districts across the state are facing this problem, since families are relocating to areas with employment opportunities, Marquez said. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, the district lost about 160 students.

The district aimed to maintain existing programs and staff during budgetary workshops instead of adding positions, funds or projects, which pushed departments to work within their budgetary constraints, Perea said.

"We wanted to maintain our existing programs, our existing staff and keep in line what we spent last year for supplies, materials and training," he said. "We're not adding, but we're not taking anything away. I think the budget was pretty much accomplished."

About 56 percent, or $17,300,924, of the operating budget is directed to instruction, which Perea said is where the bulk of the money should be spent.

Two large portions of the operating budget were directed to operation and maintenance of the plant, which was about 15 percent, or $4,651,484, for utilities and property insurance, and student support services, which was about 11 percent, or $3,649,772.

Although the district saw a reduction in the number of positions available, it wasn't through layoffs or furloughs, but through attrition, Marquez said. Teachers who retired were replaced with those on short-term teacher contracts, but 18 contracts weren't renewed, Perea said. These unfulfilled contracts are the source of the salary increase.

Administrators are waiting to sell revenue bonds in late July to come up with $10 million for projects, such as a new building for Family School, renovations to Gil Sanchez Elementary and building the community swimming pool, Marquez said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.