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Superintendent's News

Posted: February 4, 2022

Budget Overview

In his weekly message to employees, Supt. Elder writes about planning for the 2023 fiscal budget.

The new members of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education sat through their first budget presentation this week. If they’re like me the first time I sat through one of those overviews, their heads are still spinning.

Our budget team provided the board with a look at this year’s $1.65 billion budget and a glimpse of what’s on the financial horizon. You are welcome to take a look at the presentation yourself: Executive Budget Summary Fiscal Year 2022. 

You’ll see that the district gets money from several sources, including capital funds approved by taxpayers and used for construction and maintenance, grants primarily from the federal government, and operational funding from the state. We also get money for food services, transportation, and instructional materials. 

Funding for our $811 million operational budget, which covers day-to-day expenses, is based chiefly on enrollment. Our students are assigned a unit value through a formula known as the SEG (State Equalization Guarantee). Not surprisingly, the vast majority of that funding (about 90 percent) goes to salaries and benefits. We are, after all, a people-driven enterprise.

Two-thirds of our operational budget goes to direct instruction, including teachers and educational assistants. Another 10 percent goes to student support, including counselors, nurses, occupational therapy, and psychological services. About 5 percent goes to school administration, including principals, assistant principals, and office staff. Another 3 percent goes to instructional support, including librarians and media specialists.

You might be surprised to know that only about 3 percent of the district’s operational budget goes to central services such as human resources, payroll, technology support, accounting, and purchasing. 

I point all of this out because if you continue to review the budget summary, you will notice an unsettling trend – APS enrollment has been declining for a decade now, with a rapid decrease in the number of students last school year. We had hoped that many of those students would return when we switched from remote to in-person learning, but that didn’t happen. Our enrollment has gone from more than 85,000 students during the 2015-2016 school year to about 73,000 this school year.

We have seen the most significant enrollment decline in the younger grades, which correlates with statewide demographics. We know that millennials who choose to become parents have fewer children later in life. We also know that many young people who can’t find good-paying jobs leave New Mexico.

And so, we have to adjust.  

We anticipate a budget shortfall of about $25 million this coming school year. That might sound crazy considering all of the COVID-relief support we got from the federal government and the additional funding the Legislature is talking about providing for public education. But all of those dollars are designated for specific uses, whether employee raises or improved school ventilation. They can’t be used to cover salaries, benefits, and day-to-day expenses.

Bottom line: We’re going to have to make changes. The APS Budget Steering Committee has met almost weekly for months now to consider our options. We know we will have to make some hard decisions in the coming weeks and months. We don’t expect to make these decisions alone. We will be reaching out to our community for cost-saving ideas. Be on the lookout for ways to provide your input.

In the meantime, keep doing what you do every day – teaching and supporting students. It’s been a tough year with lots of interruptions, the latest being an arctic blast that shut down schools. But you continue to do good work, and I appreciate that.