APS employees to receive additional pay

Jul. 8—ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools employees will be receiving an additional check after all.

APS Superintendent Scott Elder announced Thursday that school district employees will be receiving "retention stipends" of $1,000 or $500 next month.

In May, the school district promised employees a "one-time additional payment for COVID-related work" during the 2020-2021 school year. But a week later, Elder backtracked and said the district might not be able to award the bonuses.

The reversal came after State Auditor Brian Colón's office determined the payments would violate the state constitution's anti-donation clause, which prohibits public funds from being gifted to private parties. Elder said because the payments were originally going to be made near the end of the teachers' annual contract, they would have violated a provision that prevents public employees from being paid additional compensation for work they've already done.

The school district now plans to send out the extra money to employees on Aug. 20. Elder said the school district worked closely with the auditor's office to make sure the method was appropriate.

The auditor's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

"It is only for people who were with us last year and chose to return," Elder said.

Full-time employees will receive the $1,000 additional direct deposit and part-time workers will get $500.

Monica Armenta, a district spokeswoman, said all the stipends will add up to a little over $14 million. All district employees — with the exception of Elder — will receive the extra pay.

Elder said funding for the stipends will come from money the district received through the American Rescue Plan.

"The entire country is in a crunch for hiring teachers," he said. "If we can hold on to our highly qualified employees, we'll be in a much better position."