Staff losses helps balance the budget

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Portales Municipal school administrators were able to recoup a projected $400,000 budget deficit in the 2006-07 school year through staff reductions by closing Broad Horizons Alternative School and transferring surplus funds.
Portales School Board members approved the more than $18 million 2006-07 budget during the school board meeting Monday evening.

The deficit was caused in part by increased insurance, gasoline costs and utility costs.

Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said Gov. Bill Richardson’s veto of legislation that would have provided more than $700,000 to Portales schools for the state-mandated, three-tier licensure pay scale for teachers also hurt.

Fowler said Portales received $728,000 in state funds in 2005-06 for raises. However, an increase in student funding from the New Mexico Public Education Department offset the difference.

Fowler said with Broad Horizons closing, the school district cut $275,000 in salaries. Fowler said there are still many teachers from the alternative school who will be teaching at the Portales High School and the alternative school students will enroll in PHS and take many of the same classes they had at BHEC.

Zurzolo said department officials for food services and special education donated money from their departments in excess of $140,000.
And there’s no relief in site.

“It’s been a very interesting year financially,” Fowler said. “We cut back on travel. I foresee more cuts in the upcoming year.”
Zurzolo said salaries and benefits make up 87 percent of the school district budget.
In other business:

l The board applauded the efforts by Portales High School seniors and James Elementary students for their work to put on the play, “Oliver,” during the spring semester. Portales High and Junior High teacher Franklin Smith reported nearly 100 students participated in the production.
“They’re incredible kids,” Smith said. “The performances were well-attended. The kids worked a lot harder than the directors. They love it.”

l Portales High School and Junior High band director Brandon Boerio recognized band members for their achievements during the spring semester. Boerio showed the board members the trophy they received for the Portales High School band receiving superior ratings in district competition in Clovis in late April. It was the first time in six years the band received the highest ratings in marching band, concert band and sight reading competition, according to Boerio.

l Portales Junior High students said they were grateful for the opportunity to job-shadow during the spring semester as part of their career classes.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Johanna Levacy, who learned how to draw livestock brands, test large animals for diseases and pump water into a horse to keep him from dehydrating while working with Clovis veterinarian Richard Mobley. “I received many benefits from the job-shadowing experience.”
Casey Robinson worked with State Farm insurance agent David Bonner.
“It was a good experience,” Robinson said. “I know what type of insurance to buy whenever I own a home.”

l Brown Elementary teacher Debbie Greathouse was recognized as the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year for Portales. She received a $100 Wal-Mart card to purchase school supplies and the school district was awarded $1,000.