The education establishment is up in arms and willing to go to any length to fight education cuts during the special session. Admittedly, part of the problem is the way that cuts are proposed. Rather than take responsibility for past irresponsible actions, the Richardson/Denish Administration like to propose “across the board” cuts:
Richardson has proposed a 3.5 percent cut to state agencies and a 1.5 percent cut to public schools, which would amount to about a $40 million reduction in the state budget for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Taking this approach to reigning in a budget gone wild is irresponsible at best. Yet, a recent special audit report released by State Auditor Hector Balderas show just how much waste is in education:
The money involved in the transfer to the discretionary account came from funds meant for technology and transportation, Balderas said. About $3,500 of it came from federal Head Start money, in violation of the federal rules, the audit states.
Among the items allegedly purchased by the northern New Mexico school district through the discretionary account were:
- More than $2,800 in lobbying expenses.
- $200 spent on 20 bags of beef jerky for lobbying at the Legislature last March.
- $742 spent on food at the Bull Ring in Santa Fe for a legislative meeting last February.
- More than $900 spent on flowers for funerals and other events.
- Jackets for all district staff for staff appreciation in January 2007 costing $3,299. More jackets for staff and also for legislators in March 2007, costing $290.
- Gift certificates from Wal-Mart for three retiring employees in May 2006 costing a total of $150.
- A $302 gift from Zales Outlet for the district’s retiring superintendent in August 2006.
- Another $1,200 for items for conference rooms from a vendor called “Nambe” in August 2008.
- For district staff: more than $1,300 for hams in December 2007, more than $1,600 for turkeys in February 2009 and more than $900 for denim shirts in April 2009.
- And more than $2,400 spent on jackets for district leadership in March 2009.
The audit said that depositing money into the discretionary account resulted in less money available for school district operations. Auditors looked into transactions from the discretionary account from fiscal years 2006 to present.
Consider that’s just one finding, and it accounts for almost 1.5% of the district’s annual budget. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done.