School of Dreams Academy budget balanced with some carry over

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The School of Dreams Academy 2014-15 budget is on an even keel even after Gov. Susana Martinez's mandated 3 percent salary increase for education staff and an additional 3 percent for licensed educational assistants.

In fact, the public charter school in Los Lunas is able to carry over a $280,000 cash balance from last year's budget.

"The budget looks strong — it's solid," said SODA principal Mike Ogas. "In fact, our numbers look good. We do quite a bit with the little we get.

"It's not a tremendously big budget, but we get it to go a long way," the principal said.

The total budget is close to $3.3 million, most of which is the $2.9 million from the State Equalization Guarantee grant.

The SEG is composed of a multiple of units valued at $4,005.75 each, up from last year's unit value of $3,817.

"It went up to try to help offset the mandated salary increase," Ogas said. "Normally, the cost of insurance exceeds the amount of increase in the unit value. That's the unfortunate thing … even though it was a very nice, bold gesture, still, the cost of the burdens, particularly health care, just keep going up at a rate that's not commensurate with the unit rate increase.

"It's a reality we've lived with for years in the schools. The cost of insurance has always been a problem in terms of people seeing increases in take-home pay," Ogas said.

The school will get about 734 total SEG units, based on last year's enrollment numbers. If, at the 120-day count more students are enrolled, the school will receive additional funding.

Each student receives at least one SEG unit per school year, but some students, such as bilingual or special education students, receive more units. Grades seven through 12 receive a minimum of 1.25 units.

"At this point, we're sort of locked into how much more we can grow," Ogas said. "We're pretty much capped out at our facility, so as we enroll students for (the 2014-15 school) year, we'll be looking closely at having to balance out our grade levels. There is a good possibility that we may need to do a lottery by grade level."

More than 300 students have already enrolled for the next school year. SODA has the capacity for about 380 to 390 students, including the credit-recovery night school. The lottery would pull so many tickets for each grade so enrollment is balanced at all grade levels, Ogas said.

"Let's say we have 15 openings in the 10th grade, and we have 30 applications, we need to hold a lottery to do that," he said.

The school has 20 staff members and is adding a second counselor this year.

"We're trying to increase our behavioral health component, adding a second social worker to provide as much support as (we) can to students and their parents," Ogas said.

Lease assistance from the state covers about 65 percent of the school's facility rent, and the school pays the remainder out of the operating budget.


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