The head of Albuquerque Public Schools’ Educational Police Officers Association is fighting the district over a 1.5 percent pay cut imposed on some employees last spring.
Acting Sgt. Roy Dennis has threatened litigation if his union’s members don’t receive all the money they lost.
Last week,the APS Board of Education voted to restore full salaries to about a thousand year-round employees – administrators, Central Office staff, maintenance and operations crews, police officers and dispatchers – but the $570,000 allocation will not cover reimbursement.
Dennis told the board his union members deserve the lost pay, and he is prepared to go to court for it.
“Our membership was not in agreement to this (salary cut), not that we didn’t understand the shortages and the hardships that the district has faced and continues to face, but many of our people are barely making it as it is,” Dennis said during the board’s public forum.
APS Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman declined to comment because the district is still negotiating with the Educational Police Officers Association.
Dennis told the Journal he hopes to reach an agreement and said litigation would be an “ugly, no-win” situation for both sides.
He was not sure how much his union’s 175 members lost in total.
An APS employee who makes $35,000 a year will have seen a gross reduction of $21 per paycheck across 13 paychecks, totaling $273 in lost pay. Staff who make less than $25,000 a year were not impacted by the cut.
Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón expressed support for the union members and cast the lone “no” vote against a $6.6 million package of budget reallocations, which includes the $570,000 for employee salaries.
The $6.6 million had been set aside in May for an anticipated state budget cut that never materialized.
APS will redistribute the money for programs, new hires, library support and other needs, as well as the salaries.
“After listening to Roy, I just think that we should have let everyone make their case in regards to the budget,” Muller-Aragón said.
Several other board members said the pay cuts are a symptom of the district’s larger financial struggles and argued for more funding from the state.
APS faced an unprecedented money crunch last winter, losing $12.5 million from cash reserves in late January on top of a $12.5 million reduction instituted during the special legislative session in October 2016.
“We’re really underfunded,” board member Lorenzo Garcia said.