State funding less than area schools requested

By Angela Peacock

Quay County school districts are being forced to find alternative funds to cover costs of renovation and repair projects to their facilities.

Not one of Quay County’s school districts were awarded the funds they requested to the Public Schools Capital Outlay Council, who recently awarded $5.3 million to area schools districts that were in “critical need.”

Logan school district requested $3 million for the construction of a new multipurpose theater arts classroom and for repairs to the high school and middle school. They were only awarded $700,000, which Logan Superintendent Carolyn Franklin said isn’t enough to complete the renovation and construction projects needed at Logan schools.

“We’re certainly not complaining about the amount we were awarded we would just like to have finished renovating high school and middle school wing but that money was not awarded,” Franklin said.

Currently, to qualify for capital outlay funds a district must have little ability to raise the money itself through property taxes. Specifically, each district must have a 2-mill levy already in place and has to already be paying bonds equal to at lest 65 percent of property tax capacity of the school district, according to a State of New Mexico report.

“Next year, all districts will be eligible for these capital outlay funds but those districts most in need will have priority,” according to the report from the Public Schools Outlay Council.

New Mexico Rep. Brian Moore, said the state has spent an estimated $85 million for educational funding this year and knows that’s still not enough to address all the needs for New Mexico schools.

“We could spent $3 or $4 million and still not be caught up,” Moore said. “I really feel like the state is trying to balance the amount of money they have equally for the whole state because we really want all kids to be in a safe facility where they all have the same oppurtunity to get a good education.
While San Jon school district wasn’t awarded the $900,270 they requested to build a new agriculture multiplex and renovate the old agriculture facility into a nurses office with a bathroom, Superintendent Joel Henry said he’s satisfied with $600,000 his district did receive.

“I feel fortunate for what we received,” Henry said. “I’m for all schools; I’m glad that schools in eastern New Mexico are receiving funds. It sends a message that yes (the state) is concerned about all schools in New Mexico not just a select few.”

In considering who is allocated capital outlay funds the outlay council prioritized each districts need for construction then took into consideration if that district promptly completed previous projects funded by the state.

Superintendent Bill Reents said all his district asked for was enough funds to finally complete renovations at the Tucumcari Rattlers gymnasium Tucumcari was awarded $158,000 to complete the gymnasium, which has been left incomplete because the original funds allocated to the project weren’t sufficient to cover all renovation costs.

Reents believes he has no room to complain about the capital outlay funds his district has received. He said he’s very thankful for all assistance his Tucumcari received to help build the new elementary school, however, he does understand how badly some of his neighboring school districts were in desperate need of funds they were awarded.

“Small schools right now are just holding on for dear life,” Reents said. “Since we’re way out here in the middle of eastern New Mexico we don’t carry population so we just have to hold on and hope for the best.”

The House school district won’t be repairing or upgrading any of their facilities. House district wasn’t awarded any capital outlay funds this year. House Superintendent Art Brokenbek said he is not pleased.

Currently, House schools are trying to request monies through the deficiencies correction unit for a refrigerated air conditioning unit, but Brokenbek said there isn’t money available at this time for that particular construction project. What makes the situation even more displeasing to Brokenbek is that House schools won’t be eligible to apply for capital outlay funds again until March 2004.

Brokenbek understands House isn’t the only district in New Mexico who wasn’t satisfied with the distribution of capital outlay funds. He noted that the state department is undergoing reorganization and said he hopes during this time the state takes a second look at their process of determining how capital outlay funds are awarded.

“I think (the concerns) about capital outlay are all across the state,” Brokenbek said. “But more so in eastern New Mexico because we’re so far removed from Santa Fe.”