LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - The State of New Mexico Public Education Department wrote a letter questioning staff pay raises at the Las Cruces Public Schools district.
ABC-7 obtained the letter Deputy Finance and Operations Secretary Paul Aguilar addressed to LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing.
The letter states the raises were not approved after the second quarter financial review.
"These actions are not explicitly identified, and the budget, as submitted, does not appear to support these expenditures," wrote Aguilar.
Aguilar goes on to state, "While it appears these actions were related to collective bargaining, adjustments to the budgets are not authorized without the approval of the Secretary and should not have been executed until such approval was obtained."
Although LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing said the letter came as a surprise.
“All of our information is uploaded into a state database that they have access to at all times,” said Ewing.
Aguilar cited two New Mexico statues to substantiate his claim before reminding Dr. Ewing that no prior requests to raise salaries were received from the district.
Aguilar acknowledged the budget was drafted before Dr. Ewing "assumed control of the district," but asked for "detailed information on revenue" to show where the money came from.
Ewing said the district sought legal council, and their budget was approved in June. He said the surplus funds were used to pay for teacher pay raises.
"This was the first raise in many years," said Ewing. "They’re doing more and more for less money. We thought that this raise was more than needed for our staff and faculty within the district.”
The extra funds puzzled Aguilar. In a statement, he said a parent and school board member told him they had to buy school supplies for their children's classrooms.
"If there are funds to create raises, there must be funds to supply a classroom,” said Aguilar.
Ewing said this isn't the first instance PED has questioned the district, and that he sent the information they requested.
“I think this was a misunderstanding, and were most hopeful that, once PED reads our response, they will see the same thing," said Ewing.