School budget process gets underway

The Juneau Board of Education has appointed a 17-member committee to help write the school district’s budget for fiscal year 2014.

The committee will hold seven meetings between now and March 5th, beginning its work on Tuesday (Jan. 15). Superintendent Glen Gelbrich will present the district’s recommended budget during the committee’s third meeting.

For several years, the school board has asked community members to join a budget committee, but this year’s group will have actual authority to submit a budget.

School board member Barbara Thurston will co-chair the budget group.

“We did an evaluation after last year’s budget committee to see what worked and what didn’t work.  And one of the frustrations we found is it felt like there was not sufficient amount of resolution; the committee did not have the authority to finalize any recommendations,” Thurston said.  “So that’s one of the changes we made this year, is that  the budget committee will actually create a proposed budget that will be submitted to the board for full consideration.”

This year’s super-sized committee includes a representative from each of Juneau’s 12 schools and three education unions as well as community members.  Thurston says the seven-member education board also will be involved in the budget process, but will not have a vote.

“And the reason for that is there is so much discussion of priorities (and) there’s a lot of public input.  If the board members sat out that process and then only looked at the budget when it was presented to us in March, there wouldn’t be enough time to really absorb it.  We really need to be in on those discussions,” Thurston said. “I’m sure that board members will contribute things to the discussions during the budget committee, but we don’t actually have a vote.”

The school district must present its budget to the City and Borough of Juneau by the end of March.

The fiscal year 2014 school district budget will be about $90 million.  The operating portion of that is $77 million. The district is expecting a revenue shortfall of $1.2 million.

The school district budget committee will be asking for public input, and prefers written comments.  Two public hearings – one on January 22 and the second on February 19 – will be held to take personal comments.

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