The Moriarty-Edgewood School District is facing a dire financial situation. That’s according to district superintendent Tom Sullivan, who added, “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been involved with it for a long time.”
The school district was poised “to become an efficient mid-sized district, adjusting to the patterns and trends of the last decade, having downsized, and repurposed old buildings,” Sullivan said. “We were feeling okay, dealing with the changes that are part of the ebb and flow in a community.”
Budget woes at the state level meant a mid-year budget cut of over half a million dollars from the current fiscal year’s budget, Sullivan said. The money was stripped from the school district’s savings, nearly wiping it out and leaving the schools with cash flow issues. In the meantime, the district said, “statutorily mandated expenditures” will increase by another $400,000.
This will leave the school district with a shortfall of over a million dollars for the next school year, Sullivan said. “It felt like a gut punch—this just really set us back dramatically.”
The deeper cuts are not a “done deal,” as Sullivan noted, because the legislation has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez. The school district released a letter to the governor and hopes the community will follow suit.
“Simply put, we – and likely many other Districts – cannot endure any additional budget cuts, despite what anyone may have suggested to the contrary,” the letter says. “Any additional cuts at this point will directly – and adversely – impact students in the classroom, potentially eliminating reasons students stay in school and become engaged learners, and parents become advocates and supporters of our schools.”
Sullivan said that among the Legislature, “a disinterest in additional revenue” is part of the problem. The district lobbied in favor of a cigarette tax and a gas tax “that could have sunset clauses and triggers depending on the extractive industry,” he said.
“The schools are underfunded and the constitutional amendment for sufficient funding doesn’t have an escape clause,” Sullivan said. “We’re calling on the Legislature to meet the constitutional mandate. Schools can’t be an afterthought—it’s dire.”
The school district will apply for emergency supplemental funding, Sullivan said, “to avoid seeing our classrooms decimated.”
Asked if the district is considering a four-day week to cut costs, Sullivan said the cost savings are not high. The district is conducting a survey on the topic as part of school registration in the fall, he said. If large numbers of students leave the district due to a schedule change like that, it would also have a negative effect on the budget.
The district also considered holding a community forum to discuss the issue, but is holding off until the governor acts.
The letter from the school board is reprinted on page 8.