In greenlighting a nearly $2.2 billion budget on May 30, the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education approved a 12 percent increase in spending for next school year.
Salary increases for teachers and educational staff account for most of the increase in the coming year’s budget, with a combined total of $40.2 million in raises for employees.
The APS board heard a presentation from the budget and strategic planning and finance departments on May 24. The departments proposed a $2.16 billion budget for the next school year, with $928.3 million in the operational fund.
APS’ budget is larger than the City of Albuquerque’s proposed 2024-25 budget of $1.4 billion. The APS budget is nearly $107 million higher than the 2022-23 budget. The district’s budget team told board members this increase was driven by laws passed in the New Mexico State Legislature, including mandated 6 percent raises for all staff, minimum salary increases for educational assistants, and funding for additional school hours.
The 12 percent budget increase amounts to $99.1 million in new spending, with salary increases for staff accounting for $40.2 million of that. Additional instructional hours are costing the district $13.2 million.
APS received $3.4 million from legislative appropriations to help pay for educational assistants’ new, higher salaries, but the budget team said this caused a deficit because raising all educational assistants to a $25,000 minimum salary will cost APS $8.3 million.
APS has experienced declining enrollment, losing 16,434 students since 2016. Despite the decrease in students, APS has seen an increase in funding per student from the state, helping to supplement the district’s budget.
For every student APS loses, the district loses approximately $11,000 in funding, according to Chief Financial Officer Rennette Apodaca.
The operational budget includes $923.8 million in revenue, but the district plans to spend around $928.3 million next year, creating a deficit of $4.5 million. The budget team said that even if the district needs to access its reserve budget, the reserves will remain strong at $61.4 million.
“This deficit, we believe, is manageable,” APS Executive Director of Budget and Strategic Planning Rosalinda Montoya said.
“I want to applaud the taxpayers out there and thank them for funding a $2.16 billion budget for our 68,900 kids. They deserve a big thank you,” Board Member Peggy Muller-Aragón said. “That just tells me our community cares about our kids. Even though they are not seeing student outcomes improve yet, they’re still willing to fund them because they believe in our kids.”
Muller-Aragón said the budget has been increasing fast year-on-year, and she asked if the growth was sustainable for the school district. The budget team said federal Covid relief funding has contributed to growth of the budget, but now that those funds are drying up, the next several years will see a flattening of the budget and an eventual decrease in spending.
“We have completely pivoted and we’re in a new direction,” APS Finance Committee Chair Crystal Tapia-Romero said. “A $2.2 billion budget is enormous.” She said that the budget will decrease in the next few years and called on APS’ finance teams to start preparing for the future when this funding is not available.