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RISD will see $6 million less in state funding

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The state of New Mexico made efforts to hold school districts harmless against reduced enrollments in calculating funding for the 2021-22 school year, but the Roswell Independent School District will still see a reduction of almost $6 million in its main source of state funding.

The district’s State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG, will be $89 million for next year, down from $95 million this year, according to Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

That is in large part due to a 9% drop in enrollment this year and the district opting out of the state’s K-5 Plus program next year.

The SEG, which provides the bulk of a district’s operational revenue, is a formula based on student enrollment that also factors in the cost of educating students at different levels and with different needs, educational experience of teachers, the size of the district, and the number of at-risk students, among other influences.

In a school year that started remotely, and uncertain when in-person learning would be possible, RISD saw an overall loss of 9% in enrollment, or membership, as it is referred to in calculating the formula.

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The Public Education Department requires districts to report attendance on the 40th, 80th and 120th days of classes each year to calculate membership for the next year’s funding formula.

At the 40th day, Oct. 14, the district recorded an attendance of 9,379 compared to 10,230.5 students the previous year. The 80th day counted 9,354.5 students on Dec. 1 compared to 10,206 in 2019-20. The 120th day count this year on Feb. 10 recorded 9,268 students compared to 10,032 in the previous year, according to figures Cole provided in a presentation to the district’s budget committee on Friday.

For this school year, RISD’s membership average of the 80th and 120th days was 9,311.25, down almost 808 from the previous year.

However, the state included in the 2021 SEG formula about 938 “save harmless units” to help counter the enrollment loss. That adds about $4.4 million to the district’s SEG.

The losses in the SEG stem largely from how those membership numbers are calculated according to grade level, needs of students such as special education and other factors.

One of those factors is participation in the state’s K-5 Plus program, which offers 25 additional instruction days for elementary grades prior to the beginning of the school year.

According to an analysis by Cole, opting out reduced the SEG by almost $2 million for next year. However, Cole said opting out of the program won’t really hurt the district overall.

“We’d have to do the additional 25 days and then you’ve got to pay for that. Is the funding this generates going to pay for all that when you need a counselor, a nurse, administrator, teachers? Typically no,” he said.

The state is stringent on following the rules for the K-5 Plus program, and districts can be at risk for not being reimbursed or having funds taken back, Cole said. Only six of the state’s 89 districts will participate in the program next year, Cole told the school board at its meeting last week.

Of bigger concern, Cole said, is what will happen with the state unit value, a figure set by the Public Education Department that, essentially, is how much money per student districts receive.

The initial unit value for 2021-22, which districts build their budgets on, is $4,770.70, slightly higher than the initial unit value for this year. However, in the third quarter of the fiscal year, the PED will issue its final unit value for the year, and Cole noted it changed drastically this year, falling by $221.35.

“It doesn’t give you a whole lot of wiggle room when you get to the end,” Cole said.

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