Higher wage would tax school budgets

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

While it was unclear on Wednesday if lawmakers could agree on a bill to increase the minimum wage across New Mexico, the proposal could cost taxpayers more than $1 million — and that’s just counting employees of Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University.

Payroll at Clovis Community College will surge by $400,000 a year if the hourly minimum wage increases to $7.50 from $5.15, according to Vice President for Administration David Pacheco.

To accommodate the budgetary increase, Pacheco said there might be a cut in student workers at the college. There are between 110 and 120 student workers, Pacheco said.

If student employee salaries undergo a government-mandated increase, full-time staff would also receive a raise to accommodate the college’s pay scale, Pacheco said.

“This is a big concern for us,” Pacheco said.

“It would be pretty detrimental. It would have a significant impact on our budget.”

Eastern New Mexico University will incur an increase of $900,000 in payroll expenditures if a proposed minimum-wage bill passes, said Payroll Clerk Jackie Kabrick.

Kabrick said about 800 ENMU student workers make the minimum wage.

Though unlikely, there is one way ENMU won’t feel the heat of rising wages, according to Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart.

“If we could keep the total dollar budget the same and reduce the hours students work, it wouldn’t affect payroll. But we probably won’t do that,” Smart said.

Full-time ENMU employees won’t be affected by a wage increase, because they all make at least $8 an hour (or $16,640 annually), Smart said.

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said an increase in the minimum wage would mean an annual payroll bump of about $20,000 for the school district.

Almost 40 food-service and custodial workers earn between $6.69 and $7.46 an hour in the school district, Seidenwurm said.

No one on the Curry County payroll earns less than the proposed minimum wage, but an increase could still be costly, County Manager Dick Smith said.
“A rising tide raises all boats,” he said.

The starting hourly wage for most county positions is $ 7.70, because most positions are skilled, Smith said.
Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said a raise would have little impact on city workers.

“Initially, it wouldn’t have any affect on the city. After two years, we’d make adjustments where it wouldn’t have an impact,” Thomas said.

That’s because the lowest hourly salary the city currently pays is $7.16, to fewer than 10 seasonal and part-time workers, he said.