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APS presents budget options to make up for $10M shortfall

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

To make up for an anticipated $10.2 million shortfall next fiscal year, Albuquerque Public Schools budget officials offered scenarios to cut costs, including an option with an eight-day furlough for over 1,000 employees.

Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said the district is trying to trim expenses even before lawmakers adjust the state budget in a special session, which could have big impacts on K-12 funding.

Due largely to a 1,649-student enrollment decrease in APS, the district has to find ways to get its budget out of the red.

“We will turn in a balanced budget,” Coleman told the Journal. “We will not turn in a budget with a shortfall.”

APS has issued a hiring freeze except for “hard-to-fill” positions.

So far, Coleman said the district has identified $3.5 million in savings from this year to roll into the fiscal year that starts in July, including utility savings from school buildings being closed.

In addition, the district is projecting about $6 million in FY21 savings after departments trim their budgets by 10% and following a shift in some special education expenses being paid for with federal funds rather than operational dollars.

But relying on just the current fiscal year’s saving and departmental budget trimming, APS would still be about $3 million short when costs from the COVID-19 pandemic and other expenses are taken into account. For instance, APS is picking up the tab for some families’ internet costs for at-home learning, had to pay for additional sanitizing at schools and was planning to expand arts programs in elementary schools.

To make up for the rest of the deficit, Coleman presented other options to the Board of Education on Wednesday.

She said the district could save another $2.2 million if employees on a 256-day schedule go down to 248 days – an eight-day reduction in pay.

She added that could be a permanent move to save money.

“That particular scenario comes the closest to balancing the budget,” Coleman said, adding that $834,000 would still be needed to cover the shortage.

Teresa Scott, executive director of Budget and Strategic Planning, said about 1,600 employees who are not teachers are on this calendar.

In another possibility without furlough days, Coleman said the district could postpone the music and art expansion for elementary schools. The district would, however, still need $1.6 million to cover the shortage.

“None of these (options) should be considered a done deal or a final answer in any way. We just are trying to bring them to everyone’s attention,” Coleman said.

The CFO said the district must also consider moving to one school calendar – instead of five different school calendars – to save money and to be able to respond better to future health orders uniformly.

“This is hard enough in normal times, but please realize we are dealing with a global pandemic and the collapse of a budget at the same time. This will lead to unpopular and difficult decisions,” Coleman said. “It is impossible to point to one solution to solve this complex issue.”

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