"School Dist. Needs To Pay Down Debt"

by Staff Reporter / Jun 22, 2017 / comments
Mr. Leo Valdez addressed the Espanola Valley School Board and Acting Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez at a June 20 meeting of the Espanola Valley School Board. Valdez is a Financial Advisor to Espanola Public Schools. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

"School Dist. Needs To Pay Down Debt"

By George Morse

The Española Public School Board received a sobering message from Financial Advisor Leo Valdez when it comes to its ability to issue bonds to fund projects within the District.

Valdez explained that the Española Public Schools District has a Debt Capacity of six-percent of its assessed value. The assessed value of the District is just over $585 million. That gives it a debt capacity of just over $35 million. In 2011, the sale of $28 million in General Obligation bonds for the District was approved and the debt on those bonds currently stands at $27.4 million. That gives the District a remaining debt capacity of almost $7.7 million.

At the current rate the District is paying off those bonds to satisfy bond holders and tech note holders, the District will have increased its debt capacity to $21.2 million. By 2027, the District would reach its current debt capacity of almost $35.1 million if it does not add additional debt.

The Board has several priority projects that would be funded by issuing more General Obligation Bonds, which must be approved by voters. They include the construction of new school facilities at Hernandez Elementary School and Chimayo Elementary School. The biggest project, however, is the construction and improvement of facilities at Española Valley High School.

Valdez mentioned that similar projects in other Districts have been about $40-$60 million. Acting Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez, who officially becomes Superintendent July 1, compared Española Valley High School to Del Norte High School in Albuquerque. Del Norte, similar in size to Española Valley, had a similar project at about $30 million.

Gutierrez strongly expressed the need for improvements at Española Valley High School.

Acting Espanola Public Schools Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez smiles as she listens to a presentation by Michelle R. Martinez about a Student  art  Project for the Rural Transportation District at a June 20 meeting of the Espanola Public School Board at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School. Gutierrez will officially become Superintendent July 1 after being offered a contract at an earlier meeting of the Board

“We have some of the worst high school facilities in the state,” Gutierrez said. “We can’t support programs that give them (the students) the opportunities they need.”

Board members asked about the possibility of the Districts receiving a higher assessed value through reappraisal, thereby increasing its debt capacity. Valdez was not optimistic about this possibility.

“The assessed value has not gone down, but it has not increased significantly,” Valdez said. “Appraisals are done every year.”

Taxes on the assessed value of the District go to fund public education throughout Rio Arriba County. The County sets the tax rate. A portion of the Española School District lies in Santa Fe County, which sets the tax rate for those properties.

The financial operations of the District were taken over by the State Public Education Department in Nov. 2016   and Maria Fidalgo was hired as Business Managerwith financial authority over the District’s finances. Valdez will be meeting with Fidalgo to discuss the upcoming school budget, which is due July 5.

July 5 is also the date of the next meeting of the Española Public School Board.

Jennifer Ortiz of the Mentorship Program shows a presentation at a meeting of the Espanola Public School Board June 20 at Carlos Vigil Middle School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

After Valdez’s presentation, the June 20 meeting became somewhat more relaxed and positive. Jennifer Ortiz did a presentation to the Board about the Mentorship Program, which works with students at Española Valley High School. After Ortiz, Michelle R. Martinez did a presentation of a program that partnered with the Rural Transportation District (RTD) to distribute the artwork of Española Valley High School students throughout the community.

“We are working with the (RTD) to get artwork placed throughout town,” Martinez said. “’Showcase our students. We have a high diversity of artistic talent in the Valley.”

Gutierrez agreed with Martinez and supported the presentation.

“It’s a great way to bring student art into the community,” Gutierrez said.

 

Chantal Morales of the Espanola Middle School Student Council addressed the Espanola Public School Board welcoming back Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Board took some time off to watch a performance of EmiArteFlamenco and local elementary school students, which was being held across the hall in the Middle School Gym. EmiArteFlamenco had been working for the last two weeks with District elementary schools, teaching them the art of Flamenco dancing.

A large audience of parents watched students from elementary schools in the Espanola Valley perform under the instruction on EmiArteFlamenco June 20  at Carlos Vigil Middle School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Upon returning, Gutierrez spoke to the Board about what she had been doing since being named Acting Superintendent. She distributed copies of her 90-day plan. One of the key elements was the filing of positions. Although no new hirings were announced, Gutierrez stressed of filling the position of Athletic Director for the District. The vacancy was created when Eric Vigil, who had served as Athletic Coordinator for four years, was not rehired and reassigned to a lower-paying position that Vigil decided not to accept. Vigil’s demotion was due to the fact he did not have the proper administrative license to serve as Athletic Director.

Gutierrez said that she would be on the committee that would review and interview applicants for the position. She said she would work with Sally Marquez of the New Mexico Activities Association during the process to make sure it was done properly.

Gutierrez also said she discovered a letter from the Activities Association concerning an ineligible player ( not named) during the spring sports season. The Association stated in the letter that the school would be placed on probation for one year. Probation is a warning that any more violations could result in stronger penalties.

Finally, Gutierrez announced the progress in the construction of a new Central Office for the District’s Administrative offices, predicting occupancy by Mid-September.

After wishing Board President Ruben Archuleta an early birthday, the Board adjourned to go into Executive Session. Board member Pablo Lujan declined to join the Session.

The next School Board meeting will be July 5 at Carlos Vigil Middle School.