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Townsend bill to restore schools’ cash balances passes first committee

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The House Education Committee unanimously endorsed House Bill 141 Monday, legislation sponsored by Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, to restore $40.1 million to New Mexico school district and charter school cash balances.

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, David Gallegos, R-Eunice, and David Adkins, R-Albuquerque.

HB 141 allocates $40.1 million and directs the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) to distribute the funds to school districts and charter schools that had their cash balances swept during the Fiscal Year 2017 state budget crisis. Restoring these funds would benefit 136 school districts and charter schools in the state.

The cash balance sweep placed a tremendous strain on schools across the state. Schools use their cash balances to make upfront payments to be reimbursed later by state and federal grant programs, maintain bond ratings, and save money for upcoming projects, such as opening a new school. Since the cash balance sweep, 29 school districts have been placed on emergency funding status, and three charter schools have closed.

“This bill repairs a terrible wrong that was inflicted on our schools,” said Townsend. “HB 141 makes a stand for responsible government and better education in New Mexico. More than 40 legislators have joined me in this bipartisan effort, and I look forward to gaining the support of the Senate and Executive branch as well.”

HB 141 will be reviewed by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee next.

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