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RISD to give more time to budget review

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Anticipating changes this summer to the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget, Roswell Independent School District will give itself a little more time to consider its own budget.

Approval of the 2021 RISD operating budget is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting, but Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, told the Roswell Daily Record on Friday that item will likely come off the agenda and be the subject of a special meeting in late May.

The regular meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Administrative and Educational Services Complex, 300 N. Kentucky Ave. Due to health orders limiting the size of public gatherings, board members other than the board president will attend via conference call. The meeting will be live-streamed on the RISD YouTube channel.

Anyone wishing to speak during the public comments section of the agenda will need to contact the superintendent’s office by 4 p.m. Monday at 575-627-2511. They will receive a phone call during the meeting and will have three minutes to speak.

Cole said he anticipates the board will have to address changes in the budget later, but for now, it has to consider what has been presented to them by the state government.

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“The regular legislative session that closed back in February, where things were signed into law, that was a whole different time,” Cole said.

Since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the $7.6 billion budget that included a 4% raise for teachers and increased revenue sources to pay for it, the price of oil has crashed and the coronavirus pandemic has cut tax revenue projections. Legislators and the governor have suggested a special legislative session to revise the budget.

That could happen in June, the last month of the fiscal year.

“So we’re going to have to build in that extra revenue, those extra wages, and then turn around and have to cut that immediately after they have a special session,” Cole said.

“What I’d like to do before we take that budget recommendation to the board is have a budget meeting and spend some time reviewing what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and our concerns about the budget cuts that we know are coming,” he said.

The district must submit its budget to the state for approval by May 15, but Cole said it is not unusual for districts, including RISD, to submit a budget before its board has actually given approval.

Rather than discuss the budget at Tuesday’s meeting, Cole said, the board will focus on closing the books on the 2020 fiscal year. One of the other items on the agenda is a blanket authorization for year-end budget adjustment requests and temporary cash transfers.

“Where we’re at at this point is racing to make sure we’ve completed all of our expenditures for the current fiscal year, clean everything up as far as making sure the accounts have budget in each line item account. If they’re off by one penny, that’s a problem,” he said.

Cole said any changes to RISD’s 2021 budget needed after the Legislature’s special session will likely be handled through budget adjustment requests.

While the state’s financial future — and RISD’s in turn — might look grim, Cole said the district has weathered hard times before, pointing to the Great Recession in 2008.

“The next two years are going to be a wild roller coaster ride. The fortunate thing, we’ve been through this before back in 2008, 2009 with the last financial collapse. We were able to manage costs. That’s the key. That’s what we’re looking to do,” he said.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting:

• Approval of an application by the Roswell High School agriculture/construction programs for Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Rewards program. Teacher Cody Carter hopes to have students build a tiny home to teach construction skills. Harbor Freight awards three prizes of $100,000 and 15 prizes of $50,000.

• Approval of a Fine Art Education Act application for elementary schools. The state program funds arts education programs including dance, music, theater and visual arts.

• Approval of a $6,000 donation from T-Mobile to the RISD Student Nutrition Department to obtain gloves, masks, paper products and other non-food items for the student meal program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Approval of a $1,000 donation from Donors Choice and the Keep Kids Learning Program to RHS for school supplies, games, puzzles, and arts and crafts supplies.

• First readings on changes to policies on military leave for staff; open enrollment; student interrogations, searches and arrests; and graduation requirements.

• Adoption of recommendations for elementary math instruction.

• Approval of a resolution concerning part-time employee benefits.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

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