Questa school board hears budget suggestions

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The Questa Independent Schools Board of Education met Tuesday Nov. 28 for a public work-study session where members of the community were welcome to give suggestions to the board about the current budget shortfall.

The board said the current shortfall is estimated at $105,000 and could potentially grow if drastic measures are not taken.

"Because of all those costs that took place two, three, four, five years ago, its costing the district right now," said Board President Daryl Ortega. "So now we need to work with our business manager to figure out where we cut."

"Everything is a cost in this district," said Ortega. "I don't know of anything done for free here."

Meeting with the public is part of the board's plan to bring in the community to work together in order to find a solution to shore up the budget and continue to provide for students in Questa. Two other meetings will follow before the board decides what areas of the budget to potentially cut or save. The community is encouraged to turn out and voice their opinions.

Techniques to save money, such as shutting off lights at 5 p.m. or new cuts in extracurricular activities, were discussed by the board and public. talkamong parents, teachers and the board indicated that athletics were important to the school district and the public did not want to see cuts in that department.

Another possibility to save money -- closing Río Costilla Learning Academy -- has been divisive in the past but was resurrected during Monday's discussion.

Ortega spoke about maintenance costs at all schools; he estimated the costs to be $8,000 per month at the high school alone.

QISD finds themselves in a particularly difficult situation where three out of the five schools received F grades from the New Mexico Public Education Department for the 2016-17 school year. While Río Costilla and Questa High School both scored a B grade, the board said the state would not be helping the district with the budget crisis because of the failing schools.

Grants are being looked at and all options for additional funding are being sought out by the board as they try and work through the shortfalls. Conversations turned to raised voices as parents and teachers gave ideas to the board about cutting areas in the budget. The crowd of less than 10 people advised the board to not make any cuts that would directly affect employees in contact with students.

The board will hold two other community forums on budget ideas in December and January. No actions will be taken at these workshop meetings as they are structured as a discussion forum for the public.

Ortega said the district would have to make some choices on the budget in January. The public is invited to come back to the Dec. 8 meeting with a list of departments and amenities they would like to not see cut and the board will present the public with an approximate budget to show where the district stands financially.

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