School board warned of tight budget for next year

Kevin Wilson

Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Jim Holloway told members of the Board of Education to prepare for a tight budget in 2004-05 at Thursday’s special board meeting.
However, Holloway was optimistic that a tight budget was nothing the board couldn’t handle, based on last year’s experiences.
“If — and that’s a big word — if these figures hold, I do not see a need to have any reduction in staff,” Holloway said.
Hollway and Finance Director Murphy Quick gave details from the spring budget conference. No actual budgetary amounts were set because the funding isn’t yet final, but the meeting was used mainly as a starting point leading into the April 13 board meeting.
Mostly, Quick and Holloway were relieved that the preliminary 2004-05 budget wouldn’t require any dependence on growth units.
“Murphy and I gained a few gray hairs and probably lost a couple of years doing that (last year),” Holloway said.
Growth units, Quick explained, are basically extra funds given by the state to help accommodate for extra population in the school. Quick explained that the school enrollment is taken at 40-day intervals (40th day, 80th day, 120th day), and a 1-percent increase in the student body in the course of a year at respective intervals will kick in funding.
“When you have growth, you sometimes have to have additional staff to necessitate it,” Quick said, “so they give you additional money.
“We budgeted for it because we had to do it to make budget, or cut some programs.”
No growth units were factored into the 2004-05 preliminary figures given at the meeting.
“It would be a tight budget,” Holloway said, “but it wouldn’t be nearly as tight as it was last year because we were waiting on the growth funds.”
The board also discussed a change in insurance plans. Of the four current medical plans (Blue Cross/Blue Shield, CIGNA, Presbyterian and Cimarron), only Blue Cross/Blue Sheild and Presbyterian will be available as part of next year’s plan.
The policy changes would not be until October, Quick said, and neither the dental nor vision plans would be affected. Holloway discussed setting up a meeting in May, and making it “as mandatory as possible,” to inform employees of the plan changes, with hopes of referring questions to an insurance representative.
“If they shot the messenger,” Holloway said, “I’d rather they shot a messenger from out of town.”
In other business, the board:
• had a preliminary discussion on a rotation system to upgrade computers throughout the school system, and
• were reminded of the Portales High senior honors banquet, scheduled for 6 p.m., April 26 at the Campus Union Ballroom at Eastern New Mexico University.