It’s that time of year.
The Albuquerque Public Schools board on Wednesday is expected to vote on its budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
When the district last presented to the board in April, it was planning to propose an operational spending budget of nearly $928 million — an increase of about $114 million from last year.
Last year, the district faced a budget deficit of around $10 million. This year, Executive Director of Budget and Strategic Planning Rosalinda Montoya said in April, the district expects to cut its deficit to around $6 million.
“We are starting (fiscal year) ’24 in better shape than we did (fiscal year) ’23,” she said.
The district expects to spend $927.6 million in operational dollars during the coming fiscal year. In the previous one, they spent $813.6 million. Almost three-quarters of the money the district plans to spend would go to schools, while a little over $250 million would go to departments and district-wide costs.
Chief Financial Officer Rennette Apodaca said in April that about 90% of the district’s operational budget would go to employee salaries.
“In order for us to be successful to achieve the board’s goals, we need to start the engine, and we need that horsepower,” she said. “Well, the horsepower are the salaries.”
APS has faced declining enrollment over the past 10 years. But after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, APS saw a dramatic dip, losing almost 5,600 students between the ends of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. The number of students a district enrolls helps determine how much funding it gets from the state.
At last count, according to district data, APS enrolled about 70,400 students, but in April the district was expecting to serve just under 69,000 during the coming fiscal year. Around this time 10 years ago, APS enrolled some 88,400 students.
Even so, APS’ funding is expected to grow this year, Montoya said.
“Although our enrollment has continued to decrease, and we are funded on our enrollment, we have had an increase in our revenue,” Montoya said.
Much of the $100 million in the district’s increased revenues would go to paying for measures approved by state lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, Montoya said.
Among the most expensive of those are: salary increases for public school employees, which for APS comes out to over $40 million; upping the amount of time students must spend in school, which comes out to $13 million, and raising the base salaries of licensed educational assistants, another $8.4 million.