School board approves redistricting

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The Belen Board of Education unanimously approved of a shift in its five districts to account for a change in population in an area south of Belen.

The shift, geared to balance out population sizes in each district, redrew district lines that determine which voters are represented by each district if the population they're located in increases more than 16,000, according to New Mexico statute.

Some voters in District 2, who were represented by Board President Sam Chavez, will now be represented by other board members who took over portions of an area that includes south Main Street and the West Mesa.

Chavez represents an area that includes Casa Colorada and Las Nutrias.

Board members Adrian Pino and Lola Quintana are both up for re-election in February. Those two districts increased by a combined 1,700 people.

"(The approved plan) kept the core populations in place and it didn't move anyone (board member) out of our district, and it allowed us to somewhat expand in the case of the other three districts," said Chavez.

Chavez said his district had to be downsized due to population growth in southern Valencia and northern Socorro counties over the last 10 years.

To make the districts an even representation of the growing population, District 1 will increase by 13.1 percent, or 797 individuals; District 4 will increase by 17.5 percent, or 1,066 individuals; and District 5 will expand by 10.4 percent, or 635 residents.

Michael Sharp, vice president of Research & Polling, Inc., said the redrawing of boundary lines was "pretty close" in making population sizes the same in each district.

Each district changed with the exception of District 3, which covers Rio Communities and Las Maravillas. That district is represented by Larry Lindberg.

Sharp said the redistricting process is a change in population, not a change in voters. He said changes in population are a common occurrence over a decade's time.

"There are always people moving from one district to another," Sharp said.

The school district's population increased to 30,532, according to the 2010 census, which is a 9.5 percent jump from the 2000 census, which indicated a population of 27,884.

District 2 saw a 43.6 percent increase — the largest jump.

Sharp has said Research & Polling aims to create "ideal populations" within each district by dividing the population amongst the districts. These ideal populations must be 5 percent above or below the ideal population, meaning each district would contain around 6,106 residents, or the ideal population.

Sharp said Belen Consolidated Schools redistricting plan is a necessary action that helps avoid having unbalanced districts.

"It happens everywhere," Sharp said. "It's a part of the process."

The board must approve a resolution regarding redistricting at the board's next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

In other business, the board:

• Announced the purchase of the old ALCO building on River Road. The building, which sits west of the district's transportation center, was purchased for $293,000 through a voter-approved mill levy tax.

The 39,000-square-foot building is on 3.2 acres and could be the new home for cafeteria and warehouse employees. Those employees are currently housed at a school district-owned building on N.M. 314.

The district must pay to clean up an asbestos problem in the building that is expected to cost $80,000, according to Belen Schools Superintendent Ron Marquez.

"Now that (the building) is ours, we need to sit down and look at our priorities," Marquez said.

• Announced plans to meet with the New Mexico Public Schools Authority regarding funding a new building for Family School. Officials are requesting between $1.2 million and $1.9 million that will go toward more square footage and equipping the building. The new building will house 82 full-time students and serve grades one through eight. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30.


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