AZTEC — The Aztec Board of Education approved a tentative budget for the 2013-2014 school year Thursday evening after reducing costs by $667,000.

During the board work session before the meeting, superintendent Kirk Carpenter and director of finance Ryan Manning walked the board members through cuts made to operations and personnel to reduce a revenue shortfall.

The estimated expenses for the upcoming school year were listed as $21.1 million with estimated revenue coming in at $21.8 million. That would leave about a $720,000 deficit.

Carpenter said before the cuts were made, the gap in funding could have been more than $1.2 million.

"The next two years are going to be some of the most difficult ... since I've been here, Carpenter said. "A lot of it comes down to things being increased without funding to match. So we are facing some very serious issues within our district and we're having to make some very important decisions this year."

About $500,000 in personnel expense cuts were made through a hiring freeze and not rehiring for 11 district positions. Three special education teachers, a fourth-grade teacher at Lydia Rippey Elementary, a special education assistant, a Spanish teacher at Aztec High School and other positions will not be filled.

"We're not trying to sacrifice anyone, it's all done through attrition, so that's maybe the stroke of good luck we've had," Carpenter said. "We're not having to go to people and say, "Sorry, we can't use you anymore.'"

About $167,000 was cut by reducing stipends for a football and baseball coach, discouraging use of district vehicles, reducing the number of contracted days for lead and assistant Army JROTC instructors and the high school agriculture teacher, shifting nursing assistants cost to Medicaid, a 2-percent cut for supplies district-wide and more reductions in operations costs.

The cuts were made to help counteract the increases in medical insurance, pension payments and the 1-percent salary increase for staff mandated by the state legislature this year.

The increases in insurance costs and pension payments from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years have added about $1.3 million in ongoing expenses.

Manning said if the cuts weren't made, the school district's cash balance would be depleted by the 2014-2015 school year.

Only one position will be added, a third-grade teacher for McCoy Elementary school will be hired to handle the influx of students in the second grade to avoid overcrowding.

Board president Wayne Ritter said the work of Carpenter, Manning and other employees will help the district avoid spending its cash balance.

"I think that gives us a couple of more years if we continue to trend in the (same) difficult way," Ritter said. "I think it's a difficult decision when people lose a stipend, we lose staff that needs to be there to help educate our kids."

Joshua Kellogg can be reached at; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.