By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Some budget and capital outlay measures squashed by Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday have sent ripples through Clovis.
His capital outlay cuts totaled about $1.7 million in Clovis and Curry County.
The governor vetoed $60 million for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities across the state. He also pulled $6.3 million from school districts that may face potential shortfalls in state aid due to required minimum pay raises for teachers.
But educators in the community had already braced themselves for those cuts.
“It would have been nice to get the money (for infrastructure),” said Clovis Community College President Becky Rowley. “But it won’t be a critical loss. That would have been an additional amount for us.”
There is still $20 million in place for infrastructure improvements at institutions of higher learning.
Three other CCC projects were given a death sentence by the governor.
Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said a couple operational changes she made earlier this year safeguarded the district against the governor’s extension of unfunded teacher salary raises.
Thirty-two school districts in New Mexico were thrown into panic mode last year because of unfunded increases in teacher salaries. Clovis school administrators raced to come up with the funds necessary to pay for the raises.
They did so by consolidating two elementary schools, Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy and Bella Vista Elementary, and reverting to a traditional, six-period day at the high school, Seidenwurm said.
So the governor’s veto isn’t as devastating as it could have been, she said.
“I was hopeful,” Seidenwurm said, “that the governor would honor our legislators’ decision to provide the money, but I am not terribly surprised he didn’t.”
She said Clovis schools stand to lose an anticipated $400,000 because of the cut.
“While I am confident we can meet our budget, we certainly would have made good use of the money for other programs,” Seidenwurm said.
Gov. Richardson said the reductions were necessary to bolster cash reserves, protect the state’s long-term financial health, contend with unexpected disasters, such as wildfires, and prevent an unconstitutional deficit.
Still, Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, is disappointed by some of Richardson’s cuts. He said some of his decisions were counterproductive.
Funding for two projects he supported — $57,000 for the development of an intercollegiate rodeo program at Mesalands Community College and $300,000 for the eradication of salt cedar trees — were cut.
Harden is upset about the stall in funds. He said the trees will tax a fundamental resource in the area, water.
“Our creeks and our rivers and our watersheds are overrun with these nonindigenous trees that are gluttons for water,” Harden said.
Planted throughout the state in an attempt to halt erosion during the 1950s, the trees absorb “hundreds of thousands” of gallons of water a day, Harden said. They suck up water in reservoirs such as Ute, which elected officials are eyeing as a future source of drinking water, he said.
Though some of the trees have already been eradicated using previously allocated state funds, the project is now in limbo, Harden said.
“We are at the point,” the Republican said, “where it is all up to the governor’s veto pen. … We are talking about a real delicate production … of separating politics from good public policy. Some of his vetoes aren’t good public policy.”
Other cuts in HB622 and SB 415 that affect the region:
Clovis Community College
• $50,000 to develop a vocational high school curriculum for Curry County
• $25,000 to expand the paramedic and emergency medical services programs
• $60,000 to equip music labs
• $300,000 to plan, design and construct improvements to roads in Curry County
• $200,000 to plan, design and construct improvements to Curry County roads B, L, 4 and 5
• $700,000 to plan, design and construct an intersection in the area of 21st Street, Commerce Way and Prince Street in Clovis
• $125,000 to plan, design and construct sidewalks, and remodel, furnish and equip the food bank of eastern New Mexico
• $50,000 to purchase bleachers for the gymnasium in the Melrose Public School District
• $100,000 to plan, design and construct water and wastewater improvements
• $50,000 for an equipment storage barn at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Clovis
• $125,000 to purchase equipment and an ambulance in Grady in Curry County
The Associated Press contributed to this report.