New Mexico schools could benefit from flush budget if delta variant controlled

By: - September 2, 2021 7:00 am
Albuquerque High School

(Shelby Wyatt for Source NM)

The state’s public school system could see a windfall of money as economists expect the local economy to partially recover from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

New Mexico’s main pot of money, called the general fund, will total $8.8 billion in the upcoming year. State lawmakers will have $1.39 billion in “new money,” or money that they can spend that they didn’t have in the previous year’s budget.

Stephanie Schardin Clarke, secretary of the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department, and Debbie Romero, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, presented the revenue outlook to a legislative panel on Aug. 30.

A large portion of New Mexico’s economy and its school system’s revenue are reliant on the oil and gas industry. The state accounts for 13% of all oil procured in the lower 48 states, and Rystad Energy, an energy research company, expects this to increase to as much as 15.5% by late 2023.

New Mexico oil prices are expected to increase in the next two years, according to the revenue outlook.

The number of oil rigs in the state nearly doubled from 41 in September 2020 to 80 as of Aug. 20, 2021.

Gross receipts taxes, which are applied to a company’s gross sales, are the other major source of revenue for state and local governments here. They have grown 9.8% over the last year.

The amount of goods and services produced in the state increased 4.5% in the first quarter of this year. Moody’s Analytics expects that growth to get even faster over the course of the year.

The revenue estimates come from a group of 10 economists from four different agencies across state government. The forecast assumes that the infrastructure deal passed by the U.S. Senate passes the House in its current form.

The forecasts come with a caveat: The number of COVID-19 infections is rising because of the delta variant.

Moody’s Analytics said there are two economic risks associated with the delta variant of COVID-19: it could delay schools reopening or make classes virtual, postponing the return of many to the labor force, and it could lead to tighter state restrictions and magnify supply-chain issues with surging cases in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.