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APS budget hurdles steeper than projected

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A multi-million-dollar budget shortfall in Albuquerque Public Schools is shaping up to be worse than initially expected.

On Monday, Teresa Scott, executive director of Budget and Strategic Planning, said the district is about $19.6 million in the red for the current fiscal year – up from a $14.5 million estimate a few months ago.

Scott said the district’s budget is balanced at this time mainly due to savings from unfilled vacant positions and additional funding streams that have surfaced as a response to the pandemic.

And some state dollars could be recovered.

Scott said the steeper $19.6 million figure is due to the district getting less money from the state for elementary physical education and Extended Learning Time, which is a state-funded program that lengthens the school year.

Scott said the district may get some funding later on for Extended Learning Time which would help to mitigate the situation. After all, Scott said, while the state has zeroed out that funding, about 10 schools in the district plan to implement the program this school year.

State Public Education Department spokeswoman Deborah Martinez said APS’ application for Extended Learning Time needed revisions but the district is slated to get funds beginning in October, though she couldn’t provide the exact amount.

The decrease to the APS operational budget is also in large part the result of the state reducing its allocations to districts depending on the amount of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding they receive.

“In a way, I feel like we’re kind of on a sandbar with everything kind of shifting underneath our feet, in so many words,” Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said. “So, we remain kind of nimble as things come our way.”

Before lawmakers revised spending plans at a special legislative session earlier this year – driven by the coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil prices – APS was slated to get roughly $747 million from the school funding formula. But the latest figures show APS will get closer to $706 million.

The district has said CARES Act funding, money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Title I dollars are being used amid the fiscal shortfalls.

Also, personal protective equipment costs are lower than the district was bracing for originally.

Meanwhile also during the meeting, Coleman said the district is facing a drop of enrollment of about 4,000 students this year, which would bring big blows to next school year’s funding.

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