Sandoval Signpost

 

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BPS ponders staff cuts, town and county wary over state budget battle

~Signpost Staff

As the budget impasse in Santa Fe continues, schools and local governments can only watch and wait to see if more cuts and new expenses fall their way.

"The district has already surrendered over a million dollars to the Public Education Department from this year's budget," Bernalillo Public Schools Superintendent Allan Tapia told the Signpost. "Included in that number was $180,000 from transportation and instructional materials, both of which are absolutely necessary for our day-to-day operations in our district."

That means textbooks will have to last longer, and a consolidation of bus routes cost two drivers their jobs, he added. The budget in preparation for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes further cuts, increased in class sizes, and more job losses ideally covered by attrition and retirements.

"In our work we're making some pretty significant cuts to personnel, so we're going to be tightening our belts across the board at every level," Tapia said. "We do not want to impact the classroom and we also want to not affect athletics or extracurricular activities for students."

Still, student-teacher ratios, generally around 18-1 in the district, could swell to 25-1, he said.

Over at Bernalillo Town Hall, the last two months of the current budget year look solid. Next year seems so as well, depending on the outcome of the special session Gov. Susana Martinez had yet to call after line-item vetoing parts of the 2017-18 budget and killing outright a revenue package that included new and increased taxes.

But the town and Sandoval County are concerned now that a budget deal between Martinez and legislative leaders might again shift state expenses to local governments. Whatever is, or is not happening, few hints are leaking from normally porous Santa Fe.

"Everybody we're talking to is saying the same thing: that nobody knows or it's a well-kept secret, which is unlikely," Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said. "My feeling is hold on to your hats and hope it's not too brutal."

Cutting off "hold-harmless" payments that make up local losses from ending the state tax on food and medicine sales has become a perennial topic. New, however, is the possibility of forcing some Medicaid expenses to counties.

"We need to get prepared to make a lot of calls to our legislators when they get back in session to dissuade them from putting their commitment to not increase taxes down on the counties," County Commissioner David Heil said during the April 20 commission meeting.

 
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