September 2016 Column

In Seinfeld’s “Bizzaro World,” up is down and right is wrong. The current state of the economy has placed Hobbs Schools in a type of Bizzaro World.

Declining oil prices have caused unemployment numbers in the city to increase while the employment within our Hobbs school district is up. As of Monday, HMS had only one teaching vacancy. That’s the lowest vacancy number for our district in the past seven years. Bizarro World!

If you take a closer look, however, the numbers make sense. Some of our teaching vacancies are being filled by staff who have bachelor’s degrees and were previously employed in the oilfield. The decline in the oil field led to a reduction of staff and those people are applying for alternative teaching licenses. The oilfied’s loss is the school district’s gain.

On a related note, New Mexico’s economy continues to slide due to its heavy reliance on oil and gas production. Some legislators project the state budget will be $300 million in the red. There is speculation that Gov. Susana Martinez will call a Special Session to address the deficit. Meetings have taken place across the state to reach a consensus in state budget cuts. K-12 Public Education could be required to cut millions of dollars from this year’s budget. Whether there will be an impact on Hobbs Municipal Schools depends on the areas targeted. One recent Santa Fe meeting with superintendents, Legislative Finance Committee and Legislative Education Study Committee indicated that targeted funds will be furthest from children to ensure education will not be interrupted this school year.

Student enrollment is another demographic which normally fluctuates with the price of oil. Many local residents expected Hobbs Schools enrollment to decline by several hundred this year. HMS has longitudinal data that compares student enrollment daily during the first forty days. Day 27 last year at this time was 10,024 compared to 9,840 this year. HMS saw a steady decline in enrollment after the 27th school day last year.. The overall budget is based on an average of enrollment of 80th and 120th day. The 2016-17 budget was based on 9,829 students enrolled. Although our current numbers appear to be down, if we can hold on to our present students, we will feel there will be very little if any reduction in funding for 2017-18. The Bizzaro world of enrollment for 2016-17 is trending completely different than the previous ten years.

Most Hobbs residents are hopeful for an uptick in the oil industry. Typically, when our economy is hurting the rest of the US is thriving and vice versa. It appears no one is prospering to the point of a max exodus from Lea County. Proper planning at the local level can lessen the pain of the roller coaster economy. Our state legislators have a daunting job ahead of them to balance the budget. New Mexico legislators will have an even larger task when they convene in January for the 2018 budget.
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