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News from 2023-2024

Posted: March 1, 2024

There's Still Time to Weigh in on 2024-2025 Budget

APS officials discuss budget realities and encourage community members to take the budget survey.

Several dozen people attended the February budget meetings.

Several dozen people attended the February budget meetings.

Ever wonder what it’s like to build a budget for New Mexico’s largest school district?

Rosalinda Montoya will tell you it’s a delicate juggling act – one that requires tradeoffs as competing interests collide.

Montoya, Albuquerque Public Schools' executive director of budget and strategic planning, gave parents, students, and other community members an overview of the realities the district grapples with each year as it crafts a spending plan. The overview was provided at two listening sessions the APS Board of Education and Finance Department hosted last week to give the community an opportunity to weigh in on what APS should be prioritizing in the budget.

If you didn’t make it to one of those meetings, no problem. APS has launched a budget survey that can be taken until March 8.

Budget Tradeoffs

A few dozen community members took part in the budget meetings, during which they played a budget tradeoffs game. They were given a scenario in which millions in COVID dollars were expiring, and they had to decide whether to keep programs funded with those dollars or discontinue them. If the teams decided to keep a program, they had to decide what to cut from the regular budget to pay for it.

While the scenario presented was fictitious, it broadly resembles the situation APS finds itself in.

The district received hundreds of millions in pandemic relief funds, but that funding is expiring next school year. Chief Financial Officer Rennette Apodaca noted that the district’s total budget this year is close to $2.2 billion. Next fiscal year, she added, it’s projected to be $1.9 billion.

Other factors affecting the district’s budget include declining enrollment and inflationary pressures. Fewer students means less money from the state. Meanwhile, when APS pays more money for goods and services, it has less money to spend on other programs. By law, the district is required to have a balanced budget.

The vast majority of the operational dollars APS receives comes from the state. The legislature has already met and approved a budget for the coming year, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has yet to sign the spending plan. She also has line-item veto authority, meaning she could veto certain allocations before signing the rest into law. The budget bill includes 3% raises for teachers and other school staff.

For now, district officials are anticipating a $904.6 million operating budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. So how have operational funds been spent in the past?

According to Montoya:

  • 65.6% goes directly to the classroom, paying for such things as teacher and educational assistant salaries and benefits.
  • 10.6% pays for counselors, nurses, health assistants, occupational therapists, audiologists, diagnosticians, speech therapists, and health assistants.
  • 11.2% is used on maintenance and operations, paying for things like utilities, building maintenance, and upkeep of grounds.
  • 5.6% goes to school administration, paying for principals and assistant principals.
  • 3.5% goes for instructional support, things like librarians, library assistants, and media specialists.
  • 2.9% goes toward central services, things like human resources, information technology, accounting, budgeting, accounts payable, purchasing, and grants.
  • 0.5% goes to central administration, paying for the superintendent, associate superintendents, and the APS Board of Education offices.

So how does APS spending on central administration compare to other school districts? Apodaca said two separate studies, one done by the Legislative Finance Committee and another one done by ERS, a consultant hired by the district, concluded that APS spends significantly less than similar districts on central administration. While APS spends about 3%, other districts were closer to 8% and 10%, Apodaca said.

In the coming weeks, the APS budget office will be working with schools and departments to finalize their requests for the next fiscal year and ensure that those requests align with the APS goals and guardrails adopted last year. They will then figure out what the district can afford and present a proposed budget to the APS Board of Education. The budget approved by the board will then be submitted to the state Public Education Department for final approval.

Projected 2024-2025 APS Budget

  • $904.6 million, operational funds (Used to pay day-to-day expenses, everything from employee salaries and benefits to utilities and maintenance of APS facilities.)
  • $473.7 million, capital funds (Money collected from property taxes specifically for construction of new schools, renovations, repairs, and technology.)
  • $234 million, federal, state, and local grants (Money earmarked for specific items.)
  • $191 million, debt service
  • $44.8 million, food service
  • $20.9 million, transportation
  • $18.9 million, activity funds
  • $8.7 million, enterprise funds
  • $2.5 million, athletics
  • $0.3 million, additional instructional materials