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APS projects $3.7 million surplus for next year

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools expects an $87 million increase in state funding next fiscal year compared to fiscal year 2019.

After mandated costs such as teacher pay increases, the district anticipates an operational budget surplus closer to $3 million.

During a meeting Tuesday morning, the budget committee – which stressed the budget process was still in its early stages – told the Board of Education that APS should receive $725 million in fiscal year 2020 through the state funding formula. In fiscal year 2019, the district received $638 million.

Teresa Scott, executive director of budget and strategic planning, said the $725 million is roughly 24% of the total statewide appropriation for districts.

But there are also robust expenditures that come with the heftier budget.

Scott said she expects the district to spend $85 million more in fiscal year 2020 than the year prior for mandated expenses, which consist primarily of pay bumps for teachers, principals and staff.

For instance, legislative changes increased teacher salary minimums to $41,000 for Level 1 teachers, $50,000 for Level 2 and $60,000 for Level 3. The higher minimums are expected to cost nearly $14 million. In addition, a 6% pay increase for teachers will cost $22 million.

Similarly, pay increases and salary minimum upticks for principals will cost about $2 million, and a 6% increase for all other staff is expected to cost about $7 million.

After mandated expenses and daily operational costs, APS forecasts a $2.59 million budget surplus. Factoring in expected lower costs for a new fiber optics project, the district is expecting a $3.66 million budget surplus.

The district has not yet decided what those surplus dollars will be spent on, according to Scott.

APS did a community survey to gauge the priorities of parents, teachers and others, which will be used in part to direct the money. More teachers and staff, safety improvements and college and career readiness were the top three priorities, according to that survey.

APS’ budget is due to the state Public Education Department for approval May 20.

Other money earmarked in APS’ budget includes a projected $10 million for the Extended Learning Time program and roughly $9 million for the K-5 Plus program – efforts APS is currently working on.

Extended Learning Time

APS has submitted Extended Learning Time applications to PED to allow the addition of 10 instructional days to the school calendar – upping the school year to 188 days – for roughly 20 percent of students in the district.

APS has said the plan is to make the program optional for schools.

Much is still unknown about what Extended Learning Time would look like, and APS leaders say that is because they have less than two weeks to get the applications in.

Yvonne Garcia, associate superintendent of APS’ Zone 3, explained that associate superintendents are working with principals to draft individual school plans for the extra 10 days while PED reviews the applications.

“We decided to go ahead and apply for the schools at 20 percent, to buy them time,” Garcia said.

PED is expected to complete deliberations by May 6.

Garcia said principals are being asked to identify programs they have had success with and to work with the individual school communities to see what parents and teachers want in the extra school time.

“We await May 6 to see which schools have been accepted so we can dive a little deeper and polish up what we need to polish up,” she said.

K-5 Plus

APS has also applied for some of its schools to be part of the 25-day summer learning program K-5 Plus, which expands K-3 Plus in the state.

Madelyn Serna Marmol, associate superintendent of equity, instruction, innovation and support, said the district submitted applications for 60 elementary schools with about 6,500 students to participate.

But she said APS, like districts across the state, is facing hurdles involving staffing, as the program now has new requirements. One requirement is that students must be with the same teacher from the summer into the school year.

She said many schools that were targeted for the program don’t have that staffing capacity. And with the move from K-3 toward K-5, even more teachers will need to be committed, she said.

She said just 25 schools in APS have the teachers to qualify for the program at this time.

“That’s 35 schools that potentially may not be able to participate because of the stricter guidelines,” she said, adding that would affect 3,800 students.

Serna Marmol said she is working with PED to try to staff the schools and make them eligible for K-5 Plus.

Plan B for the schools that are unable to participate is finding other summer programs from community partners.

Serna Marmol said another option could be for the remaining schools to take advantage of Extended Learning Time.

“Ten days versus the 25 families have been counting on may not be sufficient,” she said.

She said 58 schools in 2018 were in K-3 or K-5 Plus.

Any Extended Learning Time or K-5 Plus funds that go unused by APS must be sent back to PED.