School District Has To Pay Up

by Staff Reporter / Jul 06, 2017 / comments
The Espanola Public School Board held its July 5 meeting with Board Members Yolanda Salazar and Pablo Lujan not in attendance. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

School District Has To Pay Up

By George Morse

The Espanola Public Schools Board received the sobering news that they will have to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “nearly $300,000” according to Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez. Business Manager Maria Fidalgo confirmed that the District owes that amount at a July 5 Board meeting after the District failed to deposit payroll taxes for two-quarters of the 2016-2017 school year. The total figure includes the money owed for the taxes and the interest penalty charged by the IRS.

 Espanola Business Manager Maria Fidalgo explains to the Espanola Public School Board about the money owed to the IRS because the School District failed to deposit money to cover payroll taxes. Fidalgo said the money owed plus the penalty interest was about $283,000. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The interest penalty is 4-percent for the money owed in the first quarter and 5-percent for the money owed in the second quarter. Board Secretary Gilbert Serrano questioned why the interest rate had increased.

Board member Patrick Herrera, who has experience as a business owner, had an explanation.

“They feel like you’re using house money (money owed) for your personal use,” Herrera said.

Fidalgo was hired as Business Manager in Nov. 2016 when the State Public Education Department (PED) took over the District’s financial matters and required the District hire Fidalgo. In the time frame when the payroll tax deposits were not made, Myrna Garcia served as Finance Director for the District. Garcia was placed on administrative leave by Gutierrez once Gutierrez officially became Superintendent July 1 and her contract was not renewed pending an investigation. Garcia has reportedly hired an attorney.

Board members Yolanda Salazar and Pablo Lujan were not present at the July 5 meeting, but there was still a consensus present with Serrano, Herrera and Board President Ruben Archuleta so the meeting could take place. The Board members had to swallow the fact they owed the IRS money. A waiver from the penalty was denied May 19 by the IRS.

“We have to pay it,” Serrano said.

Superintendent Gutierrez opened the meeting by announcing several personnel changes that were part of the 90-day plan she submitted to the Board.

Leslie Romero-Kilmer will serve as Assistant Superintendent. Myra Martinez will serve as Executive Director of Federal Programs, Assessment and Accountability. Dede Montoya will serve as Executive Director of Student Services and Wellness. Anna Gutierrez (no relation) will serve as Assistant Director for Special Education.

Tito Ortiz will serve as Transportation Manager and Patricia Romero will be his assistant. Romero also works in Food Services and has a CDL (Commercial Drivers License).

Crystal Garcia will serve as Board Secretary. Eileen Ulibarri, who currently serves as Board Secretary, will be Secretary to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.

Superintendent Gutierrez expressed the need for hiring a Chief Operations Officer and has said the District will advertise and seek applicants for that position. She also expressed the need to create a facilities master plan.

​Espanola Public Schools Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez (right) informed the  Espanola Public School Board of her recent personnel hires, her concerns over school safety, the need for a Chief Operations Director and a facilities master plan at a July 5 meeting of the Board. School Board President Ruben Archuleta (left) listens to Gutierrez. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Former District Athletic Director Theresa Flores was hired as interim Athletic Director while the District advertises for a full-time Athletic Director. Flores will serve until the end of August and make sure the District is ready for the 2017 fall sports season.

“I was worried about this position,” Gutierrez said. “I talked with Sally Marquez and Gary Tripp of the NMAA (New Mexico Activities Association). They said she (Flores) would be a great choice. She does things by the book and will have the District in total compliance in no time.”

Flores, who served as Athletic Director from 2001-2004 and again from 2009-2012. She expressed no desire to return fultime to the position.

“If I had wanted to come back full time, I would have applied for it,” Flores said.

Several tasks await Flores after former Athletic Coordinator Eric Vigil was not rehired.

“Following up to make sure all our outstanding invoices are paid,” Flores said. “Completing our equity reports to make sure everyone is treated the same. Interviewing coaches for our spring sports. Sending out contracts for our home events to the visiting schools.”

Flores said the fall and winter sports schedules are completed and sending out the contracts is the final step to confirm the games.

Gutierrez brought up the need to address school safety and security.

“They picked up needles and syringes around the water towers,” Gutierrez said. “Those are threats to our students. We need to make sure our students are safe.”

Gutierrez informed the Board that since the PED still controls the District’s finances, the Board cannot award contracts.

“The Board cannot make decisions about contracts-who gets what,” Gutierrez said. “We’re not renewing or have canceled a lot of contracts we had in the past.”

The next Board meeting will be July 19 at Carlos Vigil Middle School.