Carlsbad schools get COVID relief, optimistic for next year’s budget

Carlsbad High School is empty on a Friday morning amid local school closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, March 20, 2020 at Carlsbad High School.

The Carlsbad Municipal School Board approved funding for the 2021-2022 school year during a regular budget meeting on June 15, as officials addressed concerns about the district’s budget.

Ron Singleton said he’d heard rumors that the district was “going broke,” but Director of finance, Laura Garcia, contended the district had enough funds for the coming year. 

CMS currently has $267,244,337 in funds, records show. This includes a cash balance that carried over from previous years of $9.6 million that was found after a routine audit. This cash balance is set to become a source of revenue for the upcoming school year according Garcia and even more federal funds are expected to come in during July. 

Garcia said the district attributes the extra funds to being on “shutdown mode” and receiving government relief aid during the pandemic. 

Like many school districts across the U.S., CMS saved money as students were learning from home. The district received $934,000 from the CARES Act and $92,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. CMS also got contributions from the public including a $100,000 donation from a single unnamed source. 

Class of 2021:Loving High School 2021 commencement

“The goal is to utilize balances that accumulates, primarily due to COVID, and to earmark them in support of district initiatives that will get us through the current year and next,” Garcia said. 

CMS plans to continue saving in the future, expecting to have a cash balance of $12 million after taking revenue and expenses into account. The district plans to end the fiscal year with $7 million in reserves. Midway through 2021 and the district is already seeing and extra $2 million in funds. 

Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn speaks with officials from New Mexico State University, Jan. 16, 2020 at NMSU Carlsbad.

Superintendent Gerry Washburn explained the district still has some long-term concerns about funding. He said that changes in funding and teacher salaries cost the district $2 million a year. While enrollment normally covers these costs, CMS has seen a drop in enrollment numbers.

“If enrollment doesn’t come back at the level that it was at, we’ll start cutting into our reserves.” Washburn said.