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As Albuquerque Public Schools officials begin crafting a budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, enrollment declines – both organic and pandemic-related – are shaping up to be major hurdles.
The upcoming fiscal year trails one that was riddled with budget uncertainty and its own enrollment drop.
On Monday morning, APS Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman told the Board of Education that the district is facing a “stark” enrollment decrease of about 5,200 kids – 1,200 attributed to historical declines and 4,000 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year before saw an enrollment dip of 1,649 students.
“We are on prior year funding. So, the membership from this year is what next year’s budget is built on,” Coleman said.
The fiscal year 2022 enrollment decline is expected to cost the district about $53 million, according to the CFO.
There are some fail-safes built into the budgeting process, though. For instance, APS is currently budgeted to get $2.7 million to account for some students returning and, if more students come back to the district, it would get more money from the state. However, if a certain amount of children don’t come back and meet a threshold that triggers those extra dollars, then APS would lose the $2.7 million, according to Coleman.
Even if all of the 5,200 students were to return, Coleman said, the district would still have a deficit because the funding mechanism intended to make up for enrollment growth doesn’t fund schools at the same rate as if the students been in the enrollment counts initially.
“Our loss of enrollment is having a major impact,” she said.
She added that it could potentially mean losing staff positions, but it’s too soon to tell the exact impacts.
APS is anticipating about $705 million from the school funding formula for operations, which is roughly steady compared to the previous year if funding specifically earmarked for extended learning programs is excluded.
Another expense the district has to take into consideration is the 1.5% salary increases for public school employees. Those will cost APS about $9 million, a large portion of which is projected to be covered by a state allocation.
Federal stimulus dollars will be a relief. Coleman said the district estimates around $223 million from the American Rescue Plan, but hasn’t received the official allocation.
“Without it, you’re looking at horrendous budget cuts,” Coleman said.
APS’ budget is due to the state Public Education Department May 26.