Legislature Shifting Money Away From Schools

During the 2010 Regular session of the NM Legislature, three separate bills were introduced (SB208, SB255, and HB268), all of which attempted to take money assigned to public schools away and reassign it to the general fund. The net effect of each of these bills is a diversion of approximately $100M per year away from our schools. While SB208 and SB255 did not reach a floor vote, HB268 passed the House just prior to the session ending.

We need to let our representatives know how we feel. Please email your legislators (see contacts below.)

This affects Albuquerque public schools drastically and Charter Schools would suffer too with loss of lease assistance even with newly allocated SB9 or HB33, for up to three years.

CALL TO ACTION: Please e-mail your New Mexico legislator now and state your opposition to any diversion of funding from public school capital outlay to general operating funds.

To find your legislator, go to:
New Mexico Legislator Search
Map of Senate Districts in Albuquerque
Map of House Districts in Albuquerque

Thanks BB, I figured people here know this, but in the interest of full disclosure: I'm an architect here in Albuquerque and have designed 2 schools. As of next year, I'll have two kids in public schools. I'm also the Secretary of AIA Albuquerque which supports school funding. I'll post a little more about the importance of school construction, and what it means when legislators reassign funds already approved by voters in the comments below soon. Mark

Views: 42

Comment by Barelas Babe on March 2, 2010 at 12:58pm
As I read this, it looks like HMB 268 (regular session 2010 in case you want to look it up on Bill Finder) deals with supplemental bonds for capital outlay and capital improvements.

A few things I found interesting:

1. It very much looks to me like this is a partisan split. The House is 45 Democrats/25 Republicans. The vote on this bill was 40 Y, 25 N. (3 absent and 2 excused) All of the votes opposing HB 268 were Republican.

2. It looks like the funds that would have gone to capital outlay for schools will go to make up projected budget shortfalls on two programs - Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) and Developmental Disabilities Medicaid support, both of which are expected to have shortfalls due to the decrease in state revenue (oil and gas) and projections based on the current economic situation, plus some uncertainty re: Congressional renewal of FMAP.

3. I'm certainly not one to favor taking money away from schools, but in these tough economic times, as a parent of a child in an APS school, I'm trying to figure out why it is more important to allocate these funds to school infrastructure projects than medical needs. Note that the medical needs are dealing with federal matching projects (so the state does not bear all of the costs, at least as I read this) and that the developmental disabilities program (in my years of working with disability issues in this state and nationally) has been long underfunded re: state need and has had a waiting list for some time. It looks to me (though I'm no expert) that the money allocated to FMAP funds is a contingency measure (if Congress reenacts the FMAP then less will be spent by the state of NM).

4. Given the current economic crisis and our limited state resources, there are some hard choices to be made. I'm not sure that this was a bad decision - to me, it makes sense that reallocating funding to be sure that some of our most vulnerable citizens (people with developmental disabilities) will be taken care of, and that we are in a position to continue current levels of medical assistance if federal matching is not renewed. And I recognize that people who have children in schools that are in very bad shape may disagree with this decision.

I can't help but wonder, though, if self interest might also be part of the picture. Regular readers of DCF are undoubtedly familiar with your innovative architecture - Masshole wrote a terrific post about the project that you did for Duranes Elementary School
and there's no question that your work has contributed to making this city a more livable place. I am just a bit uncomfortable with this lack of disclosure - it was what ultimately convinced me to take a close look at the bill.
(That, plus an utter absence of an outcry from my child's school, which is VERY good at keeping parents informed and active in the process.)
Comment by Mark on March 2, 2010 at 6:14pm
Thanks BB, I do not intend to hide the fact that I am architect as you suggest. Obviously this is not an anonymous post, and people either know me, or can click through to my profile page which says it loud and proud. Quite simply, I posted this because I believe in it.

Furthermore, I have no architectural fees dependent on this funding. I support school construction because it is vital to the mission of education, and the public schools in the state of New Mexico are severely underfunded as it is. This funding is for hundreds of school projects across the state, not just APS and certainly not just your kid's school - maybe your school doesn't have funding associated with this, I can't say. Nonetheless, these projects are critical to the schools that will receive funding.

Here's a breakdown of the school districts that stand to lose funding:

School District FY10 State Match

Albuquerque Public Schools 54%
Gallup McKinley County Schools 84%
Las Cruces Public Schools 67%
Gadsden Independent School District 90%
Roswell Independent School District 72%
Grants Cibola County Schools 81%

In addition to the obvious benefits for the schools and our children (and dare I say the future of NM), there ARE benefits to the current economy as well. The construction sector in New Mexico is already suffering a profound downturn with employment falling over 17% since November 2008. Nationally, the sector unemployment rate has climbed to 22.7%. According to APS, nearly 63% of all construction work in Bernalillo County is school related. In more distant rural areas of the state, this ratio is much higher. A decrease of funding of the magnitude envisioned in this bill could devastate commercial construction employment in New Mexico

A loss of $110 million in state funding and postponement of $110 million district matching funds could push commercial construction unemployment from approximately 20% to over 45%, for the next three years - a loss of approximately 2,100 direct construction jobs per year. That would be rough.

Taking money from schools to fund medicaid or some other under funded program is akin to borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I guess, I'll finish by asking the obvious question. Why, when there is a budget shortfall, do our schools always have to suffer?
Comment by Barelas Babe on March 2, 2010 at 7:43pm
Thanks Mark - while it is true that your profile does have this information about you and I figured that our regular readers would recognize you given your frequent presence as a valued contributor on site, I just wanted to point out that your background might give you some insight on this that other readers might not be aware of. With the new disclosure rules, we're operating under the assumption that the more transparency you can give, the better. And as you can see by the most recent discussion in the disclosure thread, we're still trying to sort all this out. Thanks for clearing this up - I was mistakenly under the impression that you might be bidding in the future on such projects that would have been funded by this.

But on to another topic - I could not agree with you more about wanting to keep our schools from getting hit in this budget crisis. But I'm also not so keen on cutting medical services, which can be a matter of life or death (not always, but it happens). I'm also baffled that all the Democrats (who traditionally have been supporters of education/school funding bills) supported this bill, and just a bit skeptical that it split so cleanly on party lines. Can you help me understand why this happened? Was there a competing bill?

You raise such an important point about the loss of construction jobs. It is a huge number, and I had no idea that such a high percentage of construction jobs were school related in BC and elsewhere in the state. Has this always been the case or is this partly due to the bursting of the real estate bubble?

Thanks so much for bringing up this issue. As an educator, I know the joy of working in a well-designed space, and I've experienced the frustrations of teaching in a building that was not close to meeting code. I also know that other factors are just as important in teaching, and I'm well aware of the problems of limited resources because of the field I'm in (bioethics). All this is to say I'm not sure what the answer is here, but I'm curious to see what other readers think. Are there other proposals for distributing funds that make more sense and cause less harm over all? If so, what might these be in real, concrete, measurable terms?

Cheers -
Comment by Juan on March 3, 2010 at 10:04am
Not sure if folks have heard other proposals that are being put out there to help draw the cuts away from education and healthcare. Right now a millionaire in New Mexico pays as much taxes as someone making $16k (as a result of tax cuts for the wealthy a few years back). If these wealthy folks actually paid even a little bit more of what they should be paying, it could help take away the cuts to education. And how about Wal-Mart? They don't pay a dime in taxes on anything they sell in New Mexico (which we all know they sell a hell of a lot of stuff here). How about making them pay some taxes? They obviously can afford it. But I guess Legislators would rather keep cutting education (its already been cut numerous times in the past couple of years) instead of manning up and doing something that makes more sense. Folks should read this article as well: http://www.democracyfornewmexico.com/democracy_for_new_mexico/2010/...
Comment by LaGuera on March 3, 2010 at 4:46pm

Walmart doesn't pay gross receipts tax? I pay sales tax there. . .I wonder where it goes. Are you sure? Can you show me the documentation for that?

In NM, sure, someone earning a million dollars a year is in the 4.9% tax bracket. So is someone earning $24,000 or $55,000 if they are singles. There are more people earning 24k-65k than there are people earning a million. Maybe raising taxes on them would be more expedient for earning money because there is more of them. In New Jersey, someone earning a teacher's salary (between $30,000 and $50,000) is taxed 5.525% and in Nebraska, they are taxed 6.84%. (I got my information from http://www.investinginbonds.com/learnmore.asp?catid=8&subcatid=61)

There has also been a lot of talk about tax lightning on the Fix. Doesn't most funding for the public schools in NM come from property taxes? Why complain about the quality or funding of the schools if we aren't willing to pay the taxes to fund them?

I hear this a lot from posters on the Fix: Don't cut spending, but don't tax me. Tax that other guy.
Comment by Michelle Meaders on March 4, 2010 at 1:23am
Actually, New Mexico doesn't fund its school operations from property taxes very much. The school operating money goes to the state and is redistributed according to a formula. On that tax lightning thread recently, I told the millage breakdown on my last property tax bill:

"The 10.434 mills for APS on mine in Albuquerque is mostly for buildings and repairs. The City of Albuquerque gets 11.048 mils, the county gets 7.334 mils, and the State gets only 1.150 mils. The rest is made up of 3.046 for CNM, 6.400 for UNM Hospital, and .840 for AMAFCA. The total should be 40.252.".
Comment by Mark on March 6, 2010 at 9:48am
@Granjero, I hear what you are saying. I understand there is a tendancy to withhold funds from underperforming schools. It becomes like a punishment of the children in a sense, especially if we are talking about withholding funding to repair and expand the schools (and get our kids out of trailers.) I should also point out that $100M is not a lot of money when we are talking about all public schools across all of the state. Did you know that APS alone has about 175 individual schools?

@BB, thanks for the nice words and thanks for understanding my personal perspective (even though this really isn't about me). I'm in the interesting position that goes like this. I beleive in education, I fight for good educational architecture, I practice educational architecture. I don't support education because I am an educational architect. I am an educational architect because I support education. Anyway, these bills would change public school funding accross the entire state for the next 3 years. I might be fortunate enough to work on one of these jobs, but there are over 200 qualified architects in the state.

As to why the partisan split on the HB, I don't know, but I'll ask around. I think the two SB's did not get out of committee because bipartisan opposition. Bottom line: The state is underfunded and the legislature is looking for programs to cut, we need to fight for education and let all our representatives know that the future of an educated population in NM is dependent on educational funding.

@Juan, would love to see the background on the Wal*Mart NMGRT taxes. I bet you are thinking about property taxes or something else.


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