APS to put $6.6M back into budget - Albuquerque Journal

APS to put $6.6M back into budget

This post has been updated to correct Roy Dennis’ rank.

In a dramatic turnaround from the dire budget news of the spring, Albuquerque Public Schools is putting $6.6 million back into the district for programs, new hires and employee salaries.

The money had been set aside in May to cover a possible mid-year budget reduction from the state, but that cut never came down and the funds can now be redistributed.

On Wednesday, the APS board of education by a 6-1 vote approved the new allocations, which were recommended by the district budget steering committee.

Notably, about 1,000 APS employees will see a bump in their paychecks. These year-round workers – administrators, City Center department employees, and some maintenance and operations crews – received a four-day reduction in work days this summer, essentially a 1.5 percent pay cut. Anyone earning $25,000 or less was not impacted.

APS will distribute roughly $570,000 to restore the employees’ full salaries. Acting Sgt. Roy Dennis would like the district to do more. Dennis, an APS police officer and president of the district’s Educational Police Officers Association, said his union’s members want to be reimbursed all the pay they lost. On Wednesday, he addressed the board during the public forum and said he is prepared to fight for the money, including potentially filing a lawsuit.

Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón voted against the budget allocations and said she was swayed by Dennis’ statement.

Under the plan, the district will also provide $1.5 million for the popular K-3 Plus summer program, which offers an extra 25 days of instruction for children in kindergarten through third grade. This spring, the New Mexico Public Education Department reduced APS’ K-3 Plus funding by 40 percent compared to the previous year, resulting in cutbacks to the program.

Other district funds will be used to hire additional staff, including positions in technology, human resources, maintenance and operations, and fine arts.

APS will also put some money aside for the new northwest K-8 school, library support, improvements for struggling schools and software to make district websites more accessible for people with disabilities.

During an APS board finance committee meeting on Monday, chief financial officer Tami Coleman said the Budget Steering Committee spent hours discussing the allocations.

Board member Lorenzo Garcia complimented Coleman and her staff for navigating the fiscal “crisis.” “It’s amazing what you’ve done,” he said.

In April, Coleman brought the board a budget that anticipated a 2 percent cut to the state’s per-pupil funding for planning purposes.

The district had already been through two rounds of reductions, adding up to a $25 million loss, and oil and gas revenue was still poor.

Shortly after the planning budget was approved, APS announced that it might be forced to drop middle school sports as a cost-cutting measure, generating outcry from parents, PED and Gov. Susana Martinez.

APS backed off from the proposal a few weeks later.

On Monday, Garcia said he worries the tough budget times aren’t over for good.

“Frankly, we just don’t have enough money,” he said.

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