Truth or Consequences general-fund budget wildly different than reality

by Kathleen Sloan | April 8, 2020
4 min read
​The City of Truth or Consequences will soon start preparing the 2020-2021 budget and the City Commission’s three new board members will be tasked with targeting revenues and expenses before deciding what to save and spend.
Hopefully the City Commission will use the most recent audit and financial statement as a starting place, not the past budget.

This is especially important in Truth or Consequences, since City Manager Morris Madrid does not give budget updates or quarterly reports, making it difficult to know how expenses and revenues are tracking compared to what was planned.

The budget for fiscal year starting July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2019 can be compared to what really happened now that the audited financial statement became public at the end of March.

It was published on the Office of the State Auditor’s website, where multiple past years are also available.

A city’s finances are divided into two categories; governmental activities and business-like activities.

Governmental activities don’t make money. They include administration costs, such as salaries and benefits for the city manager, finance officer and city clerks. They also include the police force, fire department, culture and recreation and health and welfare services.

In total, Truth or Consequences’ governmental activities cost $6.7 million in fiscal year 2018-2019.

The business-like activities are the electric, water, wastewater and solid waste services, which do make money, sustained by user fees. A few of the City’s business-like activities don’t make money. The airport cost about $57,000 and the golf course cost about $100,000.

In total, the City’s business-like activities cost about $9.1 million, and had a little over $1 million left over after paying expenses.

On page 19 of the 117-page audit, it shows what was budgeted for the general fund compared to what actually happened in fiscal year 2018-2019. The general fund is the checking account for governmental activities.

What was planned for and what actually happened varied wildly.

The expected revenue for the general fund was $2.54 million, but $3.8 million came in, $1.26 million more than budgeted.

Most of the revenue came from gross receipts, which were about $860,000 higher than budgeted. The State operating grant was $241,000 higher than budgeted. Licenses and fees were $41,000 higher and “miscellaneous” revenue was $50,000 higher than budgeted.

On the expense side, “general government” spending was budgeted at $1.5 million, but went over by $553,000, the causes of which should be of interest when drafting the up-coming budget.

Other governmental activities spent less than budgeted, making up for the excesses of “general government.”

The police were budgeted to spend $2 million but spent $1.8 million, or $245,000 less. Public works was supposed to spend $906,000, but spent $710,000, or $196,000 less. Culture and recreation was supposed to spend $489,000, but spent $432,000, or $57,000 less. Health and welfare was supposed to spend $224,000, but spent $103,000, or $121,000 less.

It looks like general government or administrative costs expanded while services for the community contracted and the budget or plan for how the money was to be spent was way off in each category.

The frugality of the community-services spending resulted in the general fund being about $64,000 under budget. The general fund was budgeted to spend $5.24 million, but only spent $5.18 million.

Nevertheless, revenues were still short of spending in the general fund, which is typical for Truth or Consequences, unfortunately. In the seven years this reporter covered the City from 2006 to 2013 for the Herald, the general fund was in deficit. A review of financial statements and audits from 2013 to 2019 show the City’s general fund was in deficit for those years as well.

To make up for deficit spending the City has transferred money from its utilities—mostly from the electric fund—into the general fund.

The budgeted deficit spending was $2.7 million, but because of the $1.26 million in unbudgeted, unexpected revenue, the general fund was only $1.47 million in deficit.

However, the budgeted transfers in and out of the general fund far exceeded deficit spending. The City budgeted $5.34 million to be transferred into the general fund and $5.74 million to be transferred out, which would have cut into general-fund reserves by $409,000.

What really happened was far more rational. Nearly $1.47 million was transferred into the general fund from utilities and $528,028 was transferred out, but that still cut into general-fund reserves by about $438,000.

Page 19 of the 117-page audit report, which compares what was budgeted for the general fund versus what happened, demonstrates the City didn’t have a handle on revenues or expenses for fiscal-year 2018-2019. The budget for transfers from the money-making side of government operations was also massively different from actual transfers, making the budget’s usefulness as a plan questionable.

Hopefully the new board can plan better than prior budget makers, who missed general-fund revenue by $1.26 million, deficit spending by $1.3 million, transfers in by nearly negative $3.9 million and transfers out by $5.2 million.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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