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RISD moves to protect construction funds

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The Roswell Independent School District school board approved transferring $6 million in cash to a capital outlay fund to help protect construction projects should the Legislature roll back funding in next year’s budget.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators have suggested a special session might be necessary to revise the $7.6 billion state budget that was passed Feb. 20 prior to a drop in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget included a nearly 8% increase in public school spending and a 4% pay raise for teachers and public school staff.

Chad Cole, RISD assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the cash transfer is a move to help mitigate the risk of the state sweeping cash balances of various agencies as it seeks to make up deficits in expected revenue.

The $6 million transfer from the operational cash balance to the capital outlay fund for school construction was part of the consent agenda, which also included the district’s March bills. Board Member James Edwards asked for information on the cash transfer.

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“We’ve got a lot of schools under construction,” Cole said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Among those are the reconstruction of Del Norte Elementary School, expected to be completed in July. Mesa Middle School’s design phase is wrapping up, Cole said, and Nancy Lopez Elementary is also slated for construction, all funded by the 2015 General Obligation Bonds.

Washington Avenue Elementary and Mountain View Middle School are slated for projects funded by the 2019 GO bonds.

All also will receive matching funding from the New Mexico Public School Capital Outlay Council.

“We had secured matching funds on those projects to move forward with our bonds. And now with the current economic state of affairs and pending economic state of affairs, whether it’s oil and gas or coronavirus, we know there’s going to be some issues there based on past history,” Cole said.

With the funds approved for transfer, Cole said at next month’s meeting, district administration will request the board to designate those funds specifically for construction for audit purposes.

“We want to make sure we secure those projects, at least the ones that we’ve moved this far forward,” Cole said.

Board Member Hope Morales asked Cole about the possibility of the Legislature sweeping funds back to the state if it does meet in special session.

“We’re almost certain,” Cole said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

 

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