Budget Cuts and School Closings, Oh My!

We’ve all heard about the recent budget cuts to public schools and the proposal to close two Santa Fe elementary schools, which has left many of us wondering, “What does this mean for Gonzales Community School and my children?”

GCS PTA set out to learn how less money and fewer schools will impact Gonzales, its students, staff and parents.  So far, the two things that jump out the most are; there are no clear answers to these questions yet and money will be tight next school year – we just don’t know how tight yet.

GCS PTA is not forming any opinions about this information - we are simply providing information to parents and teachers, so you may form your own opinions and determine how to help make 2017-18 year another successful school year for our children, despite all the negative information.

Current information at the State and Federal level:

  • The State of New Mexico collected less revenue (taxes from businesses and citizens) than expected in the current fiscal year (July 2016-June 2017) and 2.5% of New Mexico school’s reserves (savings accounts) were used to pay for current school expenses.  Generally, schools must keep 5% of their budget in reserves to pre-pay for certain expenses and then wait to be reimbursed from the federal government and other agencies that grant (give) money to our schools.  We now have less money to pre-pay for services, which means that we will have fewer services available to our students in the coming school year.

  • The State of New Mexico is forecasting less revenue (taxes) for the upcoming fiscal year starting on July 1, 2017.

  • The legislature has proposed a state budget that will give schools a .1% increase for the 2017-18 school year.  Although this would increase the budget, it still means that schools will receive less money because expenses will increase more than .1% in the 2017-18 school year.  It helps, but it’s still not enough to avoid cuts.

  • Governor Susana Martinez approved the public school budget that will provide funding for the 2017-18 school year and includes the .1% increase.

  • SFPS is also expecting an 8%-10% reduction in federal funding.

Current information at the Santa Fe Public Schools district level:

  • Uncertainty around the state and federal budgets have created a bleak financial outlook for the 2017-18 school year.

  • Based on less money from the state and federal governments, SFPS Board of Education voted to study the impacts of closing EJ Martinez and Nava elementary schools.  Current enrollment of students at EJ Martinez and Nava is 315 and 225.  The final decision on closing these schools will more than likely be made on May 2 at the Board of Education meeting at SFPS, 610 Alta Vista.

  • SFPS has asked all schools in the district to forecast their school budgets with less money for the 2017-18 school year.  The amount per school is roughly 5%-10% less than last year.

Current information at the school level for Gonzales:

  • Our school’s operating budget for the 2016-17 school year is $1.9 million.  These operating dollars are used to pay staff, utilities, and buy supplies each year.  

  • We have an average of 445 students enrolled this school year, which equates to an average of $4,269.66 per student this year.  This is a very rough average and does not account for money allocated for Exceptional Student Services.  

  • SFPS has asked Mr. Lee to prepare the 2017-18 school budget based on $1.84 million, instead of $1.9 million, which is $60,000 less for the same amount of students.

  • Mr. Lee has prepared a budget for the 2017-18 school year with less money by reducing the number of music teachers from 2.8 music teachers to two music teachers.  This means that instead of having three music teachers, each working partial time at Gonzales, we will have two music teachers working full-time at Gonzales while still offering close to the same amount of music classes without compromising the quality of our music program.  Mr. Lee has also reduced the supply budget (books, paper, pens, pencils, toner for the copier, etc) and substitute teacher budget.

  • Reducing the substitute teacher budget means that there will be less money to pay for substitute teachers and students may be moved to other classrooms if their teacher is out that day.

  • Reducing the supply budget means that fewer books will be purchased and fewer copies will be made for students and parents.  

  • Based on Mr. Lee’s current budget, Gonzales will be able to keep our Librarian and Instructional Coach for the 2017-18 school year.  Many SFPS schools do not have a Librarian or Instructional Coach, but our School Advisory Committee has determined that these positions play a vital role in the academic success for our students.

  • If EJ Martinez and Nava Elementary schools are closed, Gonzales may see an increase in students.  Our current enrollment is 445 students and we have the capacity for 500 students.

  • If our enrollment is increased, we would receive additional money to hire more classroom teachers to accommodate the additional students.  More students usually means more resources.

  • We won’t have a real budget for the 2017-18 school year until we know exactly how much money we will receive from the state and federal governments and a decision on whether to close Nava and EJ Martinez is made by the SFPS Board of Education.

GCS PTA’s goal is to provide information to both parents and teachers so we may remain informed and positive about our child’s education.  Have a question about education?  Chances are that many others have the same question, so ask us and we will help you find factual information.  We won’t even ask if you’re a PTA member :)

Again, we know that the 2017-18 school year will require belt tightening and less spending.  It’s up to us to find out how we can help ease the impact on our children.  Our teachers give 110% to our students every day and parents need to support them.  We’ve asked teachers to please provide PTA with a list of things that will help them better educate our children.  We will publish that list as soon as we receive responses from teachers.  It’s also never too late to ask your child’s teacher and school how you can help.

Creating and supporting a positive school community is the key to providing a quality education, not necessarily more money.  This is the time for parents and teachers to work together more than ever before.