Budget committee presents recommendations to Juneau school board

Brian Holst co-chaired the Juneau School District Budget Committee this year. He presented the committee's recommendations to the school board Tuesday night. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Brian Holst co-chaired the Juneau School District Budget Committee this year. He presented the committee’s recommendations to the school board Tuesday night. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The Juneau School District Budget Committee Tuesday night presented its final recommendations to the Board of Education on how to deal with a potential shortfall of more than $4 million next school year.

The school board now has until the end of the month to finalize the spending plan and submit it to the Juneau Assembly.

Highlights of the 17-member budget committee’s recommendations include:

  • Lower student-teacher ratios across grade levels than those in the budget submitted by Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich.
  • Adding 10 school nurse positions and eliminating health aides. The administration’s budget calls for five nurses and five health aides, the same as this year.
  • Delaying new language arts and math courses, which the administration wants to implement next year.

“In the recommended additions, there were 11 that had strong support by the budget committee, and seven of those were directly related to teachers, more teachers in the classroom,” said budget committee co-chair Brian Holst.

Several school board members said teaching positions should be the first budget addition if state funding for education increases this year. Superintendent Gelbrich said he would recommend adding high school teachers, because next year is the first year students in the district will need to meet new, tougher graduation requirements.

“I think that’s the most urgent need in terms of timing that has real impact for kids right away,” Gelbrich said.

The school board will introduce its version of the budget next Tuesday. It’s expected to come up for a final vote on March 25th. Public comment will be taken at both meetings. The public can also comment via email at budgetinput@juneauschools.org.

School board adopts resolution supporting per student increase in state funding

Juneau School Board member Lisa Worl. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Juneau School Board member Lisa Worl. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The Board of Education adopted a resolution Tuesday supporting an increase in the Base Student Allocation. That’s the amount of money districts receive from the state for each enrolled student. It’s currently $5,680 and has not increased since 2011. School officials across Alaska blame flat funding for district budget woes.

School board member Lisa Worl was one of several Juneau residents who testified Tuesday on the state operating budget before the House Finance Committee.

“Due to flat funding in our operating budget, the Juneau School District has cut 10 percent of our budget in the past four years,” Worl said.

Without an increase in funding, she said, Juneau will face even more cuts.

“In this next school year we are looking to cut another $4.7 million or 7 percent. Together this represents 17 percent total cuts to our operating budget in five years’ time,” Worl said.

The Legislature is considering proposals to increase the Base Student Allocation. But the operating budget won’t be approved until April and districts need to wrap up their budgets this month. The school board’s resolution also calls for lawmakers to adopt a multi-year funding plan.