RRPS grappling with a transport budget deficit
As Motown’s Four Tops sang, “It’s the same old song” about the Rio Rancho Public School Board’s student transportation budget during its 71-minute reunion on October 25.
This million dollar elephant just won’t leave the room, and Superintendent Sue Cleveland is at her wit’s end trying to solve it: a million dollar transport deficit.
The district needs more bus drivers and it is difficult to improve their wages when the district is in the red. In addition, there is a need for more buses.
“We’ve had this (transportation problem) for 10 years,” Cleveland said.
She estimated that 11 routes are not covered and that many drivers have to duplicate to meet transportation needs. In addition to the problem of increasing the ranks of bus drivers, Cleveland said that after the district provided training for potential drivers to obtain their commercial driver’s licenses, some were fleeing to take up higher-paying jobs in the city. other districts, not necessarily driving a school bus. .
“So it’s a complex issue,” Cleveland said, with the legislature apparently not on the verge of changing the funding formula for school districts.
RRPS COO, Mike Baker, told the board, “… many districts are actually getting a surplus” in transportation funds from the state.
Board member Catherine Cullen said she saw a recent report in which Albuquerque public schools are offering a $ 1,000 bonus to new drivers and adding a dollar to drivers’ hourly wages. But that’s not a practical fix for RRPS, down the hole, and Cullen – soon ending his second term on the board and not running for office – has suggested suing the state.
“We pay our drivers less because we don’t have the money… (and) we don’t have enough buses,” Cleveland said. “We are not alone in this case. “
But, she said, the solution is not to “take it out of our classrooms”, so the state must “be realistic about the cost of transportation.”
The board wants the state to provide adequate funding for its transportation needs as part of its legislative demands.
Legislative priorities could also include protecting the district from unfunded mandates; thoughts on an extended school year and what to do with what Cleveland has said are 1,100 vacant teaching positions in the state; obtain a source of income dedicated to vocational technical education; a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) liability waiver provision for school districts; and adjusting the time frame for retirees from education to return to school to work again.
The council is expected to finalize its legislative priorities at its next meeting and share them with local lawmakers over a breakfast in November.
In other areas, the members of the board of directors:
- congratulated the Rio Rancho and Cleveland high school bands for their first place awards at the recent Pageant of Bands at RRHS;
- congratulated five workers in the installations department for receiving the prestigious Ben Lujan maintenance awards: Michael Mermin (warehouse coordinator), Nick Pina (painter), Gabriel Gonzales (general technician) and HVAC technicians Andrew Alarid and Jerrell Peralta .
The next council meeting is set for November 8 at 5:30 p.m. A virtual working session will take place on Monday at 5:30 p.m., when the council will discuss adding student representation so that student voices can be heard. be heard. and from time to time.