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          Front Page




APS Reveals Savings Plan

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
       Schools that spend unused salary money on items like supplies and books must now send that money back to the district.
    Gina Hickman, Albuquerque Public Schools finance director, told the school board this week that the district can save about $5 million by reclaiming money left over when school staff retire or leave mid-year and the position is not refilled.
    "Schools no longer have the ability to transfer money from salary into discretionary line items," she said during the board's finance committee meeting on Monday.
    The district took a $20 million hit in this year's budget from reduced state revenues. An earlier audit report had found the district overstated its teacher training and experience levels and the size of its special education staff.
    After covering the loss with reserve money, the district is now trying to replenish the fund.
    On Monday, $10 million in cuts was announced, including the $5 million saved from staff vacancies.
    Gary Atwood, executive director of the APS Principals Association, said it's common to tap unfilled vacancy funds when cutting costs, but some principals may have concerns.
    "It is a change in what's been done in APS for a while," Atwood said Tuesday. "It's also created very different staffing patterns in some cases in different schools."
    The $10 million savings announced Tuesday are:
    n The $5 million from vacancies.
    n $1 million from the APS subsidy to its food services department, which is trying to rely on its own revenue.
    n $500,000 in overall savings from Brooks' decision to cut 48 administrative positions overseeing area clusters. The employees were reassigned to vacant positions elsewhere.
    n $1 million in savings from the new school allowance budget, after determining early estimates for nine new schools are "a little high," Hickman said.
    n $300,000 in contracts with University of New Mexico that had been budgeted twice.
    n $2.5 million saved last spring during a one-month freeze of supply funds.
    In addition:
    n $1 million from a hiring freeze on all nonschool personnel through the end of the school year.
    n District officials found a variety of savings earlier this year that amount to $5 million.
    Hickman said APS still needs to find about $4 million more to replenish its reserves.