The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education approved a redistricting plan and the preliminary $203 million budget for the 2022-23 school year at its meeting Monday evening.

Unanimously approving the new districts using 2020 U.S. census data, Plan D has all five districts ranging from populations of 20,681 to 21,873. The board originally had six redistricting plans to consider and narrowed the choices down to three for residents to comment on.

Sue Cleveland

Superintendent Sue Cleveland said there was no overall favorite or dislike of any of the plans. She said residents’ main concern was that school attendance districts would be changed – the simple answer was “no.”

Click here to see the chosen redistricting plan.

The new budget was cause for concern, especially in light of an additional $24.6 million in salaries, including medical benefits and retirement benefits, thanks to statewide raises approved by the governor. Cleveland said the district is not ungrateful for the compensation, merely wishing it had been funded by the state.

The budget also had a few smaller “major” additions: $3.3 million for software, mostly to defend against malware attacks from the dark web; $3.05 million for instructional materials; $2.3 million for new Chromebooks, thanks to Google no longer providing support; $1.5 million to add 17 teachers; and $500,000 for the new career-technical building and programs.

As for CTE, Cleveland said, “We need to be just like others states across the country and get funding strictly for CTE – and not at the expense of existing programs.”

Mike Baker

As usual, the transportation department is expected to be in the red, by $1.85 million estimated by Chief Operations Officer Mike Baker, considering increasing fuel and oil costs. That department will again need more drivers, who make $18 an hour.

The district received more from the state than in the 2021-22 school year, $185.2 million compared to $154.8 million. RRPS will start the new fiscal year with a beginning fund balance – termed “cash carry” by Baker — of $16 million.

But with fluctuations in revenue from oil and gas, which provide the bulk of the funding from the state, much of that goes into reserves in the event “we need to re-balance the budget.” He said $4 million has been set aside as the district’s 2 percent emergency reserve account.

The preliminary budget, subject to approval by the state Public Education Department, is due there May 11.

Chromebooks should be part of instructional materials, Cleveland said, which the state is obligated to fund as per the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit proceedings. Baker said he expected “automatic changes every three years” for the Chromebooks, provided by RRPS to all its students.

They proved to be invaluable during the virtual learning RRPS experienced during 2020 and ’21, he said.

Speaking of items going unfunded, the board approved $3.1 million for the new English Language Arts curriculum for grades K-8, because the current material had been deemed “dated,” noted Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelman.

The process of adopting those materials involved numerous committee members to identify high-quality materials, Leppelman said, noting there were “hundreds of publishers for resources and materials.”

The board also unanimously approved closing Rio Rancho Middle School to new transfers, other than siblings of current students or staff members’ children, because of extensive HVAC improvements taking place in the 2022-23 school year, while re-opening Martin Luther King Jr. and Puesta del Sol elementary schools to transfers after HVAC work was completed on those campuses.

The board’s next regular session will be in the district board room on May 9 at 5:30 p.m.