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Anchorage School Board revises district's proposed budget

Budget now heads to the assembly for  public comment

The Anchorage School Board revised  the district's preliminary 2012-13 budget at its meeting last night. The  revisions reinstate many programs and positions recommended for cuts by the  superintendent, while reducing others.

 During the two public meetings  regarding next year's school budget, more than one hundred people testified in  support of programs that were originally slated for reduction. The board and  superintendent also received several hundred email messages regarding the  proposed budget.

 "I extend my sincere thanks to the  community, students and employees who gave very thoughtful and important  testimony on the potential impacts of the recommended cuts," said  Superintendent Carol Comeau. "I am very gratified that the board reinstated  some very important positions. Following the board's direction, my staff will  now begin working through the new reductions the board passed last night."

After Thursday's public testimony,  the board made the following changes to the superintendent's proposal.

 Reinstatements include:

      Elementary  librarians, four full-time positions
      Special  Education counselors, nine full-time positions
      High  school graduation coaches, nine full-time positions
      Gifted  program staff, three full-time positions
      Modified  middle school in-school suspension program
      Maintenance  positions, six full-time positions
   
The increases in class sizes for  grades 4-6 were eliminated and the board approved a further reduction at those  grade levels. The pupil-teacher ratios for grades 4-6 are now the lowest in  nearly 20 years.

 Reductions include:
   
      Non-school  based clerical staff, approximately eight positions
      Educational  Technology, one position
      Assessment  and Evaluation, one position
      West  High School master plan facilitator
      School  board travel account for staff lobbying
      Equipment  Replacement Fund
      Maintenance  projects
      Budgeted  attrition - salaries and benefits
      Pending  negotiations
      Legal  fees
      Unallocated  funds for middle and high schools
      School  supplies, $5 per student at all schools
    
A number of other recommended  program eliminations were accepted, including: all summer school; middle school  career guides; two student support program supervisors; and Curriculum, English  Language Learner, Purchasing/Warehouse and custodial positions. One-time cuts  to bandwidth, computer equipment refresh and utility costs were also accepted.  Reductions were also made in nearly every department districtwide.

"I believe many of  positions and programs being reduced are important to providing a high-level  education," said Comeau. "We will continue to make our case for increased  educational funding to the mayor, Anchorage Assembly members, state legislature  and the governor. We are still near the beginning of a very long process that  will not end until the legislature and governor have completed their action in  April or later."

The district's budget is scheduled for public hearing at the March 27 assembly  meeting.

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