APS faced unprecedented cuts this year - Albuquerque Journal

APS faced unprecedented cuts this year

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Public Schools building. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Crafting a budget is always a headache. But for Albuquerque Public Schools this year, it was closer to a migraine.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Scott Elder called this the “hardest year we've ever been through” for APS, adding that principals were having to go through things they hadn't had to before.

He said the reason the impact was so painful was that the district had to cram around three years' worth of needing to reduce staffing into one. And classrooms have suffered the brunt of those changes.

“This was the first year we couldn't avoid the schools anymore,” Elder said at a board meeting last week. “They did take the lion's share of the cuts.”

According to charts from the presentation, 70 support staff positions, 27 administrative positions, and 16 instructional positions were cut across all grades. 36 elective courses were cut.

Elder has said APS has eliminated hundreds of positions this year as part of right-sizing the district. Over $1.2 million was deducted from departments for the coming year, according to charts provided to the board.

The full-time equivalent of staff in APS is going from around 9,257 in 2022 to around 8,509 in 2023, according to charts. In 2021, that number was around 9,245.

Among the elementary schools that saw their FTE numbers drop the most between 2022 to 2023 were Chaparral, which lost 18.7, Manzano Mesa at 13.76, and McCollum at 16.75. Middle schools included Van Buren at 20.25, Truman at 19, and Desert Ridge at 14.45. High schools included Atrisco Heritage Academy at 16 and Sandia at 12.05.

Some of those schools were in the top 10 in enrollment drops between 2020 to 2023 as well, including Atrisco Heritage Academy in third place at 302 fewer students, Chaparral at 236, and Truman at 174. George I. Sánchez Collaborative Community School, which serves kindergarten through eighth grades, topped the list at 452, and Jimmy Carter Middle School was second at 418.

Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said staffing for most of the employees at schools is based on enrollment. Overall, according to charts, APS has seen a decline in enrollment, going from around 79,300 in 2020 to around 71,460 in 2023.

District officials said school budgets could change for a variety of reasons, including enrollment and school boundary changes. Elder also noted that comparing numbers across classes is tricky because FTE by grade level ratios vary wildly. The district approved a $1.94 billion budget Wednesday, and board members have questioned why it grew roughly $68 million from the year before despite declining enrollment in APS. District officials have pointed out that state funding increased this year, in large part to cover mandated salary increases, and that federal funding and local property taxes account for a sizable chunk of the budget.

A recent Legislative Finance Committee evaluation found that despite dropping enrollment and achievement, APS' spending and physical infrastructure has increased. The district must right-size, according to the evaluation.

Elder has said the budget would shrink as the district continues to do so and if student enrollment continues to decline.

“It will work out,” he said, adding that money is still flowing to schools with the most need.

Over $14.5 million will be spent on special education ancillary services in all schools, and another nearly $1.3 million will be spent on counseling services, according to charts. Projected at-risk funding from the state increased from just under $71.6 million in 2022 to around $75.5 million in 2023.

Some board members had concerns over how much principals are involved in crafting the district's budget. They questioned why principals aren't represented on the budget steering committee, which Elder said involved past “issues with confidentiality.”

“I think that it would be a significant overture to include principals on the budget steering committee in some capacity,” board member Courtney Jackson said. “Maybe a best practice as we move forward is to see something like that.”

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