Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Something Has To Give.(Final)

Byline: Isabel Sanchez Journal Staff Writer

City Proposes $1.4 Million in Cuts To Balance Budget

Sonya Akers, 7, reads aloud a note from her teacher."I put Sonya in a higher reading group today," the note says. "Be proud of her."

Sonya's grades have gone "sky high" since joining Excel Educational Enterprises' after-school program, said her grandmother, Louella Lopez. "I don't know what I'm going to do if this closes."

Guadalupe Rojas' five sons the "five J's," they're called all attend Excel's program at John Marshall community center. The eldest, Jose, is 15; Jacob is 5. After school they come here and do their homework. That's always first. Then comes tutoring in math and English and two days a week, the computer lab.

Excel, Rojas said, "is very, very good for me and my sons."

Help will be harder to find for the Excel students and many others who attend after-school or drop-out or drug-prevention programs if the city makes its proposed $1.4 million in cuts to Family and Community Services Department contracts.

Mayor Martin Chavez's administration is struggling to balance a $350 million budget without laying off city workers.

The budget is 5 percent larger than this year's but must cover several new expenses. Among them, more than $1 million to the police department to make up for expired federal grants and more than $4 million in increased insurance costs. The budget also includes money for new programs such as a pilot project for bus rapid transit and an international trade program. …

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