District plans use of one-time state education funds
With no additional school operating funds on the horizon, Juneau school district budget meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been canceled.
Instead, school officials are looking at how to spend some one-time money appropriated by the state legislature for energy, pupil transportation, security, technology and curriculum materials.
Juneau will realize about $900,000 from the energy grant, which is already in next year’s budget.
For the next three years, school districts also will get increased transportation funds, tied to the Anchorage Consumer Price Index. District Administrative Services Director David Means estimates Juneau schools could get up to $20,000 more a year toward transportation, depending on the CPI, which rose about 2 percent in 2012.
Means says school security dollars embedded in the capital budget will give Juneau $762,000 for the next year to be used only to enhance school security.
“This is capital money and can be used to improve infrastructure and to strengthen and invest in our safety and security procedures here,” Means explained. “This is a multiple year grant; it will not be just one year money, so we will be able to spend this as we need to improve our safety and security measures here in the Juneau School District.”
Lawmakers did not increase the Base Student Allocation, the amount of money districts get to educate each student enrolled. That means the operating budget adopted last month for Juneau schools will be implemented with no changes, and about $1.7 million in reductions. Most of those are in staff support, outside the classroom. Means doesn’t anticipate any teacher layoffs and says some jobs simply will not be filled when the person in them retires.
School board president Sally Saddler says the cuts taken over the past three years have been exhausting.
“It’s been about 10 percent of our budget and unfortunately we’ve had to cut some very valuable programs that have a lot of constituency support in this community and that really do positively impact kids’ lives,” she says. “It’s agonizing to have to let go of these.”
But Saddler says the district is grateful for funds earmarked for technology and curriculum materials because few funds have been available to invest in those areas in recent years.
“Part of what we intend to do is with those curriculum dollars in invest some math curriculum and to make sure our faculty have the tools they need to be offering our students classes to meet the graduation requirements that we upped a couple years, and the governor’s performance scholarship requirements,” she says.
Saddler says the district also plans to purchase more high school English materials with the curriculum funds.
Juneau’s portion of statewide technology dollars is about $30,000. The district had requested more than $400,000. The capital budget also includes funds for playground equipment for pre-school students at Riverbend Elementary School.
Of course the projects are not guaranteed; Gov. Sean Parnell must still review the budget and can veto the funds.