The Ugly Budget

No matter how we slice it, cuts to public education are going to impact students and staff this year and next.

The Ugly Budget

A message to APS employees from the district’s Budget Steering Committee

There’s little meat left on the financial bones of Albuquerque Public Schools, which means anticipated cuts in state funding are going to hurt in the coming months and years.

We’re already feeling the pain. In the past year, the district has decreased its operational budget by about $12 million. We did this, as best we could, by making adjustments away from the classroom. We reorganized central office, consolidated maintenance and operations, canceled travel, filled only essential jobs. Our top administrators took an unpaid holiday, but that only saved us about $25,000.

See, that’s the problem. Central administration, which includes the superintendent's office, makes up a minuscule part of the APS budget – only about 1 percent. Another 5 percent goes to central services -- many of which are housed at City Centre -- including human resources, payroll and technology. Almost all the rest goes to schools or student support. As the state Legislature prepares to cut millions of dollars more from public education (we’re expecting our share of the cuts to be at least an additional $12.5 million for this school year alone), there’s no way we can keep these cuts from impacting our schools.

And because 90 percent of our budget goes to employee salaries and benefits, there’s no way we can keep these cuts from impacting you, too.

These are unprecedented times, according to APS Chief Finance Office Tami Coleman, a veteran of public schools budgeting who can’t recall school districts ever being asked to cut so much from their budgets in the middle of a school year.

Review the 2016-17 budget approved by the state Public Education Department last summer.

“We’re looking at a few options, but none of them are pretty,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to come up with ways to protect our students and our employees as much as possible.”

These options include shutting down the district for a few days and/or laying off employees for the remainder of the school year. In order to save $10 million, the district would need to shut down for four days or lay off 750 people for the final three months of the school year.

Before any of that happens, APS is dipping into its reserves as much as it can and cutting spending on such things school supplies. Contrary to rumors, the district isn’t cutting the budget for sanitary essentials such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

That’s our reality. And it will only get worse for the 2017-18 school year. Even if the economy turns around next year, it will take a while before we reap the benefits. So we’re looking at the possibility of cutting positions – not necessarily people, though; in years past, we’ve been able to save money by not filling jobs left vacant due to retirements, moves and career changes. Still, when we don’t fill these positions, either someone else has to pick up the workload or it doesn’t get done.

We’ve been accused in the past of crying wolf – of creating a doomed financial outlook that doesn’t turn out to be as bad as anticipated. We hope we are being overly precautious. We hope the state comes up with alternative ways to cover its shortfall due to the dramatic decrease in oil and gas revenues.

But we also believe we need to be transparent, honest and fiscally responsible.

That’s why we’re sharing this message with you today. We wish we had more specifics. The only thing we can say for sure is that we're working diligently to do what's best for our students and our employees.

We encourage you to learn more about the APS budget. We have posted information on:

If you want additional information on state funding, contact your legislature: