ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Public Schools board rejected a request from Bernalillo County to pitch in $400,000 to help rebuild the community pool at Rio Grande High School in a 4-3 vote Wednesday.
A majority of board members said a new pool to serve the South Valley neighborhood and Rio Grande students is needed, but they couldn’t support the request because it didn’t go through the district’s normal process for budgeting construction projects.
“From a fairness standpoint it’s the wrong thing to do,” said board member Marty Esquivel. He said there are similar potential projects throughout the district, but they all go through the process.
He said the district’s budgeting process for construction projects is apolitical and the board would set a bad precedent by deviating from it.
Esquivel was joined in voting against the funding request by board members Kathy Korte, Lorenzo Garcia and David Peercy. School board president Analee Maestas and board members Steven Michael Quezada and Don Duran voted for the pool spending.
The county, which owns and operates the pool, made the request because it doesn’t have the money needed to complete the $3.6 million project, county spokeswoman Tia Bland said by email Wednesday.
County Commissioner Art De La Cruz said the county “scraped up” about $3 million for the project and the state agreed to pitch in $250,000. De La Cruz said he thought the request to APS was not too much to ask since its students would benefit from the pool.
The pool, which closed in November, was demolished, but new construction has not started, Bland said.
Built in 1976, the pool served both Rio Grande students and community members.
Ed Chismar, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, said county officials will meet today to discuss what to do next. He said he’s not confident the pool can get built without the $400,000.
“I guarantee you if the pool was needed at Cibola High School, there would be a different attitude up here,” Quezada said, referring to the board.
Cibola is located in northwest Albuquerque.
Maestas made a similar remark, saying the South Valley was getting shortchanged.
Maestas’ district includes Rio Grande and other area schools.
APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said Quezada’s remark was untrue and offensive. He claimed the South Valley has benefited from more construction spending than other parts of the district.
Brooks said the pool spending request, which was brought before the board at Maestas’ request, offered up several budgetary challenges.
He said the district hadn’t budgeted in its capital master plan, which is how APS funds construction projects.
For that reason, Brooks said if the district pitched in $400,000, it should take money out of its cash reserves.
He warned, however, this could hurt APS’s bond rating, which determines the interest rates at which the school can borrow money.