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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 25, 2020

Budget

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder discusses this school year's budget.

As stewards of taxpayer dollars, public school districts are obligated to spend money judiciously.  Albuquerque Public Schools takes this responsibility seriously, working diligently to build trust among its constituency by ensuring all public funds go to support our mission -- the education and wellbeing of our students.

With a budget of almost a billion dollars, that’s no easy task. Throw in a global pandemic and an economic crisis, and the job becomes colossal.

Yet, that’s what we continuously do, thanks in large part to a stellar budget team guided by the APS Budget Steering Committee and the Board of Education. Despite tens of millions of dollars in unanticipated budget cuts over the past few months, APS has balanced its budget while making sure funding is intact for teaching and learning along with health and safety measures needed to combat the coronavirus.

How did we manage to do this? I’ll tell you, but it’s a lot like watching sausage being made. Nothing about the budget process is appetizing.

When we first began budgeting for the 2020-2021 school year, the oil and gas industry was booming, which meant more operational dollars for New Mexico’s public schools. We were planning to expand educational programs focusing on our youngest and most at-risk students. We were looking forward to giving raises to all of our hard-working employees. We were excited to offer more training for teachers and staff to better serve our students.

We had scraped our way through a decade of financial hardship and were finally entering a more promising economic future for public education. 

I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. Our dreams plummeted along with oil and gas prices, we faced unimaginable expenses like personal protective equipment for staff and online learning programs for students, and our already declining enrollment tumbled. The result: a $40 million shortfall that we would somehow have to plug.

Fortunately, a good portion of the shortage can be covered by federal funds through the CARES Act, passed by Congress to help alleviate the cost of the pandemic, along with a FEMA grant and some Title I money.  
You might be able to guess where another chunk of the savings comes from if you are a teacher who was recently transferred to another school, or if you work in an office where you have been asked to take on extra work: job vacancies. Since more than 90 percent of the APS operational budget goes to salaries and benefits, we were able to cover the shortfall by not filling a couple of hundred jobs both at the administrative and district levels. But not without consequence.

Once again in public education, we are being asked to do more with less. It’s frustrating, I won’t deny. But I am always inspired by the resilience of the APS team. You believe in our students, and so we carry on.
I want to thank you for that. I know you are working hard, and this budget situation feels like yet another gut punch. But you and I know how just how important our work is, and our commitment to our students will pay off in the long run.