Add It Up

What's old is new for public schools

In the spirit of the post-holiday return to school, here's a quick test. Fill in the blank with the appropriate school year: "As Santa Fe Public Schools builds its ________ budget in a time of rising costs and shrinking revenues…the picture is bleak."

Sound like 2010? It isn't. That quote comes from an article published in the Albuquerque Journal on April 3, 2002.

Or try this headline, which dates back to July 1, 1997: "Dip in State Funding Leaves Schools Searching for Cuts."

Although SFPS' revenues—from state appropriations, federal grants, property taxes and bond sales—have jumped 69 percent since 1997, budget cuts are as familiar a refrain now as they have been in past decades. A survey of news articles reveals that SFPS officials have announced the need for budget cuts nearly every year since 1999.

But according to SFR's analysis of 4,792 pages of budget documents, there's much more to a school budget than meets the eye. In the 2010 fiscal year (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), SFPS spent approximately the same amount on pizza as it did on some elementary school teachers' salaries, while a few favored firms—Centennial, Wilson & Co. and FacilityBuild—won multimillion-dollar contracts.

It's a lot to take in, but one point is clear: Whoever wins from among the nine candidates vying for three open spots on SFPS' board—the election is Feb. 1—will have his or her hands full.

Santa Fe Public Schools: The Index

Total amount SFPS spent, in FY 2009-10, on pizza: $36,319.74

Average salary for a teacher at Atalaya Elementary School: $40,448.45

Change in the number of teachers employed by SFPS between 1999 and 2010: -10

Change in the number of students enrolled at SFPS between 1999 and 2010: 250

Change in SFPS’ projected operating budget between 1999 and 2010: $35 million

Approximate percent increase in SFPS’ revenues since 1997: 69 (from $47.5 million to $80 million)

Minimum amount SFPS has cut from its budget since 2006: $21.3 million

Expected amount SFPS will have to cut from its operating budget in 2011: $12.7 million

Maximum amount of money SFPS will save by closing Acequia Madre Elementary School, according to estimates by Deputy Superintendent Mel Morgan: $300,000

Total income SFPS received in 2010 from the state, as small-school credits, for Acequia Madre, Alvord and Larragoite elementary schools: $324,399.58

Total amount SFPS spent, during FY10, on maintenance and improvements to Acequia Madre: $627,226.12

Percentage of that total which paid for non-recurring expenses, such as new playground equipment and flooring or roofing projects: 99.2

Average percent change, between 2008 and 2010, in the percentage of students proficient in math at Alvord, Kaune and Larragoite elementary schools: 50

Average percent change, between 2008 and 2009, in the percentage of students proficient in math at all SFPS elementary schools: -0.25

Total amount SFPS paid to the City of Santa Fe for crossing guards in FY10: $179,036.60

Total amount SFPS paid to the city for trash bags: $15,797.53

Cost, if SFPS had been allowed to charge SFR to take photographs of public records, of SFR’s records request: $1,195.50

Four-year cohort graduation rate for SFPS students and statewide, respectively, in 2009-10: 60%, 66%

Percentage of studies reviewed in a 2003 education research book, co-authored by Public Education Secretary nominee Hanna Skandera, showing lower dropout rates in smaller schools: 90

Share of long-term district plans, as presented Dec. 1 to SFPS’ board by Architectural Research Consultants Inc., that call for closing Acequia Madre: 4/4

Share of those plans that also call for closing Nava Elementary School: 3/4

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

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