District hopes for ‘a miracle’

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Socorro School District Director of Finance Donald Monette has a job with plenty of ups and downs.

On easier days, Monette can take satisfaction in seeing well-distributed funds supporting the schools in the district, teachers and staff being paid, buildings taken care of, children learning. When it’s more challenging, he has to take point on making those things happen with less money.

This is one of those times. SCSD’s 2012-13 budget started with the district in short $1,879,410. It’s now approximately $1,000,000, as reported at the April 30 school board meeting, with Monette heading up the charge to cost-cut.

“That figure is slightly higher now,” he said. “We discovered some additional costs since the school board meeting.”

One reason for the shortfall is 2013 school enrollment is down by 15 students, compared last year’s admissions. Another is that schools throughout the state have been told by the New Mexico Public Education Department to not budget for forest service money — monies allocated to rural counties based on the amount of forest they have. For Socorro, that meant approximately a $300,000 loss.

“The thing is, though, especially in tough financial times, to have transparency,” said Monette. “You could try to fudge the numbers, but it will always come back to bite you. It’s better for the district, for the schools, for everyone, if we say, ‘Here’s the situation we’re in, here’s how we got here, and here’s what we have to do.’ Even though this isn’t easy, I really believe that the district will be in a better position, more efficient. Once we get our head above water, make the cuts and adjustments the situation requires, the future is golden.”

Specifically what needs to be done is “micro-managing, counting every expense and treating the money that’s there as if it was a family budget,” said Monette. “We met with all the schools, administrators and teachers. They’re all onboard. We will cut anywhere we can with the goal not losing jobs, or decreasing what we offer students.”

There are some difficult decisions to make, and no quick fixes.

“This is the first time I’ve said, ‘God, I need a miracle.’ We’ll have to ask the state for emergency funds, I don’t see anyway out … I’m a positive person, you have to be, It’s the only way you can work through things like this.”

 


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.