School Board Concerned Over EVHS Field Financing

by Staff Reporter / May 26, 2017 / comments
Right to left, Espanola School Board members Pablo Lujan ,Patrick Herrera, Denise Johnston, Ruben Archuleta, Yvonne Salazar, Gilbert Serrano.Photo by George Morse for the Valey Daily Post

School Board Concerned Over EVHS Field Financing

By George Morse

At a special meeting of the Espanola Public Schools Board May 25 at Carlos Vigil Middle School, the discussion centered around the funding for the newly-completed football field and track facilities. Board members grilled Business Manager Maria Fidalgo and Director of Facilities Adan Cordova because they were concerned after learning that the funds for the football field and track facilities were being paid out of the Operational Fund and not from SB9 bond funds.

Adan Cordova, Director of Facilities for the Espanola District speaks to Board members at the May 25 meeting.Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“When the purchase order was created it was budgeted out of operational funds,” Fidalgo said.

The Board members were under the impression that the funds would come from the bond funds and carryover cash reserves. The Board were concerned that with the money coming from the Operational Fund could impact the quality of education in the classroom.

Business Manager Maria Fidalgo. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“I want the public to know that it is coming out of our classroom funds,” Board member Yvonne Salazar said.

The original purchase order category is listed as operational and was signed Oct. 22, 2016 by then Superintendent Eric V. Martinez, who is now gone. It was approved Oct. 12 2016 at a School Board meeting by the then members of the School Board by a 3-2 margin, with former Board members Annabelle Almager and Lucas Fresquez, along with present Board member and former Board president Pablo Lujan voting in favor of the action. Current Board members Ruben Archuleta and Salazar voted “No.”

“With the cost of the football field we keep asking our teachers to do more with less and we keep doing it over and over again,” Board member Gilbert Serrano said. “I have nothing against football, but the children are the ones who are suffering.”

Serrano and Patrick Herrera were elected to the School Board in November 2016, replacing Almager and Fresquez. Archuleta is now Board president and Salazar is vice-president.

The original purchase order was for almost $1.75 million and was later revised to 2.1 million with the addition of $292,000 for lighting, $10,500 for goal post material and nearly $5,000 to install the new goal posts. Other additions include $4,000 for earthwork behind the home bleachers. Lone Mountain Contracting, Inc. was awarded that contract by former Superintendent Martinez without competitive bidding.  

An additional cost may be incurred with the installment of new home bleachers. Some estimates put the final cost of the project at $2.5 million.

Current Board members complained that the new costs had not been approved by the Board.

“It was done without Board approval or public input,” Board member Patrick Herrera said. “”That’s a lot of money. I work in construction for a living and you never ever see gross negligence like this. Everyone should be alarmed.”

The new bleachers will be installed by Sports Equipment, Inc., which hired former boys basketball coach Richard Martinez in 2016.

Fidalgo was hired as Business Manager Nov. 28, 2016 on the orders of State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera when the Department stripped the Espanola Public School District of its financial authority. She had been out of the country until recently and informed the Board that the football and track project was funded from Operational Funds upon her return at a recent budget committee meeting. Fidalgo is currently working on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which is due June 5 by the Department.

“I am confident we’ll have it done by then,” Fidalgo said.

 So far, $1.89 million of the football and track project have been paid out. Of that approximately $1.45 million came from Operational Funds, $439,000 from bond money, leaving a balance of $213,000. There is a proposal to move the $1.4 million to bond funds.

“I’m not sure that that’s legal,” Board President Archuleta said. “It’s going to be presented at the next Board meeting (June 7).”