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Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, Part 4

Editor's Note: This is the Part 4 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.

Barry Ward, Silver Consolidated School facility manager, spoke on behalf of the district.

He highlighted the issues in the forum capital outlay application.

"Like most public entities, we have been going though tough times," Ward said. "Large projects are done piece by piece. We use bonding, grants and capital outlay to fund them."

He said the district had received $14,000 from a New Mexico Department of Transportation Government Road fund for the parking lot improvements at Cliff Schools. "Two years ago, we received $300,000 for energy improvements, including solar and heating/ventilation and air-conditioning. The installation enhanced the buildings and gave us a 22 percent energy savings."

The district has reroofed half of La Plata Middle School. "Because of the required district match, we could only afford half. We will apply for the other half. We could only take advantage of the Public Schools Facilities Authority funding. Most funding is inaccessible to Silver Schools, because of not being able to come up with the match. Under the current distribution requirements, an accumulation of millions of dollars is not getting to end users."

Sporting activities are important to the schools, but PSFA funding is limited to non-existent for sports facilities. "Any major renovation to the football field or the track is totally up to the district," Ward said. "We coordinated with Silver City to upgrade the tennis courts."

The district's priorities are to finish the Cliff Schools parking lot, and finish the second half of the La Plata roof, contingent on PSFA funding. Another priority is the resurfacing of the track at Fox Field. "It is the most utilized facility in Silver City, from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. We also want to pave the dirt parking lot between Fox Field and the tennis courts to prevent the dirt degrading the polyurethane surface."

Another project the district is seeking funding for is to stucco the band and elementary school buildings at Cliff. They require continuous maintenance and repair.

With those as the main priorities, Ward said the district believes some can be funded with a combination of state and district funding, but "some are out of our capability. We have hurdles on a regular basis. We want to provide safe, comfortable learning for students."

Ward encouraged support of the 2 mill election in February.

Hamilton said she knows the loss of students has cost "all our districts. What percentage are you down this year?"

Assistant Superintendent Gus Benakis said at the 40-day count, the district was down 60 students. "That's not a tremendous burden this year, but we have had a lot of high-end teachers retiring, so we're looking at a $300,000 hit due to that.

Hamilton said it seems like the public is not concerned about the issues, but she said she appreciated information being given to the media.

Martinez said the legislators recognize the schools are struggling, especially on infrastructure. "What you presented tells us your priorities, and I want to continue the dialogue."

Morales sought clarification that the application packet included the list of priorities.

"They are our general priorities," Ward said. "Some are funded, such as the Cliff parking lot. Some we are working on. If it pans out, we can make the match on the La Plata roof, contingent on PSFA funding. The parking lot between Fox Field and the tennis courts is a priority, because the track is used a lot more than just for school track. It's a community facility. The life of the track is six to seven years, but we're going on eight years. We want to continue to provide for the people, so we want to get the parking lot done."

Morales clarified the district is looking at the La Plata roof and the Fox Field parking lot. "Smaller schools get less and less funding from PSFA. Do you have any suggestion on how to improve that?"

"Right now, projects are awarded on a need system," Ward said. "If you fall within 1 to 100, you are capable of applying that year. There are awards for those in most need and awards for entire campuses. We may come up with enough for the HVAC, but not for all the floors and doors. They need to recast the awards, which used to be a deficiency system. For instance, a roof is good for 20 years. That can change depending on maintenance. We've done it well. We can make it last longer than its useful life. We have good preventative maintenance. We can also do things piece by piece. It's an ongoing process."

"We will look at not cancelling out smaller schools because of the lack of a match," Morales said.

The next article will cover the presentation by Silver City.

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