The Juneau School District faces a $4.5 million deficit next school year, according to an updated budget projection from Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich.
In a presentation to the district’s budget committee Tuesday, Gelbrich offered a blunt assessment of what the latest numbers mean.
“The cumulative effect of previous cuts and the projected deficit for next year is far too real and far too great,” he said. “The challenge this year is daunting at best and in many ways demoralizing for people who care about student success.”
Gelbrich’s initial proposal calls for addressing the shortfall by cutting about 35 full time positions, including more than 20 teachers.
The district is currently engaged in negotiations with the Juneau Education Association teachers’ union for a new contract. Gelbrich said the latest offer from the Board of Education would increase the budget by about $1.3 million when the district factors in salary and benefit obligations to all of its employees. The teachers’ latest one-year contract included no financial increases and expired last June.
As a result of the proposed cuts, he said, class sizes would go up, and programs and services for students would be reduced. But the plan would continue to put money toward professional development and instructional materials designed to help students meet new, tougher graduations standards.
“Through the next few weeks, we may with the committee’s help find better solutions to matching our resources to the mission,” Gelbrich said. “We hope that one thing that won’t get lost in our collective dialog is how important it is for us, for our students, and for our community to pursue that mission and to improve our capacity to ensure the success of each child.”
In the past three years the Juneau School District has reduced its budget by about $11 million as enrollment and state funding for education have remained largely flat.
The district budget committee is scheduled to submit its final report to the Juneau Board of Education on March 4th.
The committee will take public comment at its next meeting, January 28th.