The Moriarty-Edgewood School District is constructing a vocational building—planning to sandwich academics between the arts and trades. That’s according to district superintendent Tom Sullivan’s report to the Edgewood town council last week.

The project will spend the last $4 million of $19 million in local funds raised by the community through a bond election, Sullivan said.

At the same time the district continues its construction of new facilities at the high school, it is facing dire budget woes coming down from the state legislature, Sullivan said.

mesd construction CATE Schematic

Money from the state is doled out to school districts through what is called the state equalization formula. Sullivan told Edgewood’s council that it had been advised in the past to build up cash balances; now that reserve is being taken back by the state, Sullivan said, noting, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

In a special session before the November election, the Legislature, which pulled back nearly half a million dollars from the current year’s budget, Sullivan said. The Legislature is still insolvent due to low gas and oil prices, and is looking for another adjustment to the current fiscal year which could mean a loss of another $350,000, Sullivan said in a Tuesday interview.

The bond funds can’t be used for operations, Sullivan said. “Those monies were from a bond election in 2013,” Sullivan said. “That is local money, from property taxes, authorized by the voters. It has nothing to do with our operational budget or the state of New Mexico.”

The district will almost certainly have to seek emergency supplemental funding, Sullivan said, because its reserve of $1.1 million will likely be wiped out almost entirely by the Legislature.

The vocational building is a renovation of the space that used to house the school board meetings as well as the music department during construction of the fine arts complex. It’s adjacent to the space used by the Ag program, Sullivan said, and the space will be shared by both as much as possible, he said.

Classes for auto mechanics, welding, and shop will be together in an industrial arts complex, the superintendent said, adding that the district is sandwiching academics between industrial arts and fine arts; he said he hopes the space will be used to offer adult vocational classes in cooperation with CNM.

The space is currently under demolition. The $4 million price tag comes from the specific needs for ventilation, fire suppression and dust collection needed by a vocational building. “The infrastructure on a vocational building drives the cost through the roof.”

Sullivan said he is very grateful for the community, which he said has passed every bond issue and mill levy for schools that he can recall since the 1970s. “My hat’s off to the community. Thanks for believing in us and making sure that whatever happens in Santa Fe, we’ve got quality facilities to educate our kids.”

The cuts included about $150,000 for transportation and some $23,000 for instructional materials like textbooks.