Teachers in the Hobbs Municipal School District may not have had children physically in the classroom for most of the year, or gone to conferences, meetings or educational get-togethers, but they will be getting a bonus for the year’s exceptional work environment.
“This really has come about just because of the … we have changed the way teachers have taught, I don’t know if there’s any teacher who would have told you five years ago there would be remote teaching, or they would do what they did for the last 11 months,” HMS Superintendent TJ Parks told board members during last Tuesday’s school board meeting. “And, they’ve put in an awful lot of hours, and still putting in numerous hours to try and reach some of our kids.”
Dubbed as “COVID compensation” by Parks at the meeting, the total cost to the district for the bonuses will be about $1.5 million.
“It’s really been an interesting budgeting year because there’s been some expenditures that you know we’re not going to have,” Parks said. “We haven’t traveled, so we’ve got our travel budget. But, we’ve spent a heck of a lot more money on technology. So, there’s been some pros and cons on both ends.”
There are currently 16 teacher vacancies in the district and 29 para professional vacancies totaling about $1.5 million budgeted that was not spent by the district this school year.
“Good, bad, or indifferent we have 16 teaching positions and we typically budget $65,000 per position.
So, if you take those 16 positions we don’t have filled right now, you can see we have a little over a million dollars that’s budgeted, that we will not spend money on.” Parks said. “We currently have 29 para professional positions, and if you just want to take $25,000 as a round figure for that, about almost a half a million dollars.”
The New Mexico Public Education Department recently increased the “unit” value by $5.01 — to $4,536.75 from $4,531.74. That meant HMS received an increase to the current budget of $88,345.72. Students and staff are often referred to as units by the PED.
“By law, (PED) can adjust the unit value one time per year. They usually do it the last of January whenever they get all of their revenue in,” Parks said.
The $88,000 increase to the district added to the $1.5 million budgeted expense that would have been saved, brings a total of about $1.6 million the district decided to give back to teachers.
“It was my recommendation that we compensate our staff, our certified staff by $1,000, and actually it’s going to be a little bit more than $1,000 because Kerri (Gray) has figured in all of their benefits on top of that. So it’s not going to be $1,000 with ERB and everything taken out,” Parks said. “They will get a $1,000. So it’s really going to be more than a $1,000 per person. Then all of our classified staff would be $750. Same thing. They would truly get $750. It’s going to be very close, because again, we’re going to have benefits taken out of that.”
The total amount is slightly less than the $1.6 million Parks said.
“When we do that for all of the staff, that comes out to almost $1.4 million,” Parks said, showing a slide with the total coming in at $1,391,221.00 for the bonuses. “We didn’t save ourselves $200,000. We don’t have $200,000 if you look at that $1.6 million to $1.39 million, you go, ‘oh gosh, we still have $200,000.’ Because again, we have overspent our budget per se on certain things.
“This revenue we’ve got right now has helped offset that so we will be able to keep or cash balance, so we’ll make sure we do have we have enough revenue to make sure the CTE facility opens up. If, we hope not, if the Legislature does something unusual that causes us to loose $4 million, we still have a cash balance that would be able to float us through the year,” Parks said, knocking on the podium as if knocking on wood.
“But even by doing all of that we’re going to be very close budget-wise, and it would be my recommendation that we give this compensation to our staff,” Parks said. “We would like to do that prior to Spring Break in a completely separate check.”
HMS Board Vice President Peggy Appleton asked to clarify what positions are certified.
“When you say certified staff, does that mean principals too?” Appleton asked.
“Yes, everyone’s who’s licensed. So it’s teachers, occupational therapists, administrators, all of those,” Parks answered.
“Good,” Appleton responded.
Without much of a pause HMS Board President Gary Eidson asked for a motion
“I’m all for it, and I would entertain a motion,” Eidson said.
A motion was quickly made by board member Joe Calderon and seconded by Appleton, and was unanimously approved.
“It’s always good to give staff money,” Eidson said after the vote.
“Oh, I know. Isn’t it? It’s the least we can do for all of their hard work.” Appleton responded smiling.
Parks noted the bonus would be allowed by PED.
“We actually have documentation for PED’s lawyer that allows us to do that,” Parks said after the vote had passed. “That money was budgeted for salaries so we’re not even moving it out of a category. We’re just using the money that we had budgeted to give. If anyone questions that, that was money that was already budgeted. Some of those teachers are actually picking up a load because we are 16 teachers short.”