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Calendar shift causes financial pain for some APS employees

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Leslieanne Schmidt may have to borrow money from her mom or pull from her 401(k).

“It will be taking money out of my future, but at least my bills will be paid, and my house will be OK,” she told the Journal.

The Mark Twain Elementary School teacher’s biweekly paychecks are decreasing by about $250 for a while – the result of a scheduling change within Albuquerque Public Schools affecting hundreds of people.

The Board of Education approved starting the 2020-21 academic year on the same day for all schools due to budgetary and public health concerns.

But switching calendars leaves a gap in work and a gap in pay for some teachers and staffers, including those working at Mark Twain Elementary, which operated on an alternative schedule and started classes earlier than the traditional calendar.

“The adjusted calendar will impact your paycheck because it pushes back the first pay period for the coming school year. To keep employees from going a month without pay, the final paychecks of the year will be spread out over more pay periods,” the district said in a memo to affected staff.

Chief financial officer Tami Coleman said the change affects about 700 employees, who will see a decrease of 17% to 20% per paycheck for six checks over 12 weeks.

For most educators, the final five paychecks are being spread out over six pay periods. Principals and secretaries who only have four paychecks left in the 2019-20 school year will see their pay spread out over five pay periods with the reductions.

This is the district’s way to mitigate the financial hit and make sure teachers and staff don’t miss a check, Coleman said.

“No one will lose pay, and insurance premiums will be made, but each of these six paychecks will be about 20% smaller than usual. This adjustment will begin with the May 22 paycheck,” the APS memo dated May 18 said.

Schmidt, a teacher at Mark Twain for 34 years, says that she mostly lives paycheck to paycheck and that she is taking a financial hit, made worse by her loss of income from teaching summer school, which was canceled.

Schmidt isn’t alone. Educators at schools that started the school year earlier than the traditional calendar, including the seven that operated on an alternative schedule, are facing the same paycheck situation, Coleman said.

Rokeya Jaramillo, an occupational therapist at Mark Twain Elementary School, said that although she lives in a two-income household, she’s bracing to pull from her personal savings to cover the decrease. She anticipates a $270 dip per paycheck.

She’s been at Mark Twain since 2001 – partly because she knew if she ever changed schools she would run into this paycheck problem.

Jaramillo and Schmidt questioned why the district didn’t resort to other options that wouldn’t affect the pay schedule.

“Our employees are important, and we feel we did as much as we could, short of loans and prepayment of services, both of which are illegal. There really are no other options when our staff changes calendars,” Coleman said, emphasizing that teachers are getting paid for the time that they work.

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