Albuquerque Public Schools employees will be receiving an additional check after all.
APS Superintendent Scott Elder announced Thursday that school district employees will be receiving “retention stipends” of $1,000 or $500 next month.
In May, the school district promised employees a “one-time additional payment for COVID-related work” during the 2020-2021 school year. But a week later, Elder backtracked and said the district might not be able to award the bonuses.
The reversal came after State Auditor Brian Colón’s office determined the payments would violate the state constitution’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits public funds from being gifted to private parties. Elder said because the payments were originally going to be made near the end of the teachers’ annual contract, they would have violated a provision that prevents public employees from being paid additional compensation for work they’ve already done.
The school district now plans to send out the extra money to employees on Aug. 20. Elder said the school district worked closely with the auditor’s office to make sure the method was appropriate.
Colón said the matter was an example of how government can work better when there is oversight and accountability.
“Enhanced compensation for the hard working employees of APS was always the goal and that goal has been achieved,” Colón said. “I applaud APS for working with its stakeholders, employees, unions and my office to follow the rules for an appropriate path forward.”
Full-time employees will receive the $1,000 additional direct deposit and part-time workers will get $500.
Monica Armenta, a district spokeswoman, said all the stipends will add up to a little over $14 million. All district employees — with the exception of Elder — will receive the extra pay.
Elder said funding for the stipends will come from money the district received through the American Rescue Plan.
“The entire country is in a crunch for hiring teachers,” he said. “If we can hold on to our highly qualified employees, we’ll be in a much better position.”