- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Latest on the reorganization of New Mexico’s Cultural Affairs Department (all times local):

1 p.m.

The state Personnel Board has voted unanimously to approve a plan by the New Mexico Cultural Affairs Department to cut nearly a dozen staff positions as it grapples with a more than $2 million budget shortfall.

The board heard from advocates for the state’s museums and historic sites during a meeting Thursday before making its decision. Those advocates asked that the Cultural Affairs Department look for other options.

Department Secretary Veronica Gonzales told board members that the agency’s numerous divisions have come together to trim as much as possible, but it’s still being forced to trim operating hours, freeze all nonessential contracts and reorganize management of its historic sites.

She told the board she recognizes the role of the sites in preserving New Mexico’s history and that the cuts are painful.

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9:45 a.m.

Advocates who traveled hours from southern New Mexico to Santa Fe say a reduction in the workforce and restructuring within the state Cultural Affairs Department could threaten visitor services at some state-run museums and historic sites.

The state agency says a budget deficit of more than $2 million is forcing it to eliminate nearly a dozen jobs. Other measures include cutting back on hours at some sites and freezing all noncritical contracts.

The state personnel board is considering the agency’s proposed job cuts during its meeting Thursday.

Critics of the plan warned that unfilled vacancies and low staffing levels already are wearing on employees and that more cuts could be detrimental to historic sites that are part of New Mexico’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

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3:47 a.m.

The New Mexico Cultural Affairs Department is seeking approval from state personnel officials to trim nearly a dozen jobs in response to a $2 million shortfall.

The agency is scheduled to make the request during a meeting Thursday in Santa Fe. The personnel board will have the final say on the proposed layoffs.

The Cultural Affairs Department is among the agencies to be hit the hardest by budget cuts. The department oversees 16 museums and historic sites, including the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

Aside from layoffs, the department is reducing overtime, freezing all noncritical contracts and leaving vacant positions open.

Additional measures include cutting back hours at some state-run museums and historic sites.

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