Rio Rancho Schools look to petition for more transportation funding

Two metro-area school districts say they need more state funding to pay for school bus service.

Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools said for years, they’ve been dipping into their operating budgets to find the millions it takes to run the buses, including fuel, repair and maintenance costs. 

APS said for at least the past six years, it’s had a transportation funding shortfall of about $1 million, which means it’s had to make up the difference by dipping into the operational fund.

Rio Rancho said it’s dealt with the same problem over the past decade. “We have been assured that our transportation costs would be funded this year. However, they have not,” RRPS Chief Operations Officer Michael Baker said.

He said the district anticipates an $800,000 shortfall for its transportation fund for fiscal year 2020.

“That could be potentially hiring at least a dozen teachers, which would actually reduce class sizes,” he explained.

APS does anticipate a budget increase this year, but says it’s not enough to cover all the transportation costs.

“The expectation is there’s money built in for 6% salary increases for transportation employees just like the rest of the district,” APS Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman added.

Monday night, the RRPS board will vote on a resolution petitioning the New Mexico Public Education Department to completely cover their full transportation costs, and to make changes to the transportation funding formula, which is based on district size and the number of bus routes.

In response to the potential petition, the PED said it is willing to talk with concerned districts, adding that the legislature increased the statewide budget this year by 7%.

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