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School Board approves changes to ASD budget

A few Arts, World Languages positions reinstated

The Anchorage School Board has approved changes to the  Anchorage School District budget for fiscal year 2012-13. These changes are the  result of both increases and decreases to the revenue and expenses since the  approval of the budget in February.

The district began its planning for the 2012-13 fiscal year  with a $30 million gap. In February, the board approved the use of $7 million  of the fund balance-similar to a savings account-to reduce that gap and  approved $23 million in cuts to the district's $578 million General Fund.

The $23 million in reductions came mostly from administrative  and operational areas. The reductions are broken down as follows:

  •    44% administrative or operational personnel, technology equipment and project funds
  •    25% instructional support such as summer school and teacher experts
  •    24% school support personnel such as counselors and career guides
  •    7% classroom teachers

This spring, the Alaska State Legislature and the Governor  approved more than $24 million in direct, one-time capital grants for projects  to schools. These funds can only be used for the items named in the grants and  include projects such as interactive white boards, artificial turf and other  school improvements.

The legislature also provided an additional $7.5 million in  one-time funds and $3.8 million in ongoing operating funds. At this same  time, ongoing Federal Impact aid decreased by $2.6 million. After  calculating all the increases and decreases to revenue and expenses, the  district estimates a net increase of $9.3 million in one-time funds and $2.2  million in ongoing operating funds.

Due to the uncertain nature of one-time funds, the Anchorage  School Board and Assembly have encouraged the district to spend one-time funds  on one-time activities such as the purchase of goods or short-term services.  District administration developed their budget recommendations with this  guidance in mind.

At Monday's meeting, the board agreed to use the one-time  costs for:

  •  Reinstating 1.4 FTE for one year to ensure that  middle school students who started a world language this year can continue that  language in middle school next year. -$140,000
  •   New K-8 Mathematics program -$5 million
  •   High school biology texts -$900,000
  •   Social studies readers -$100,000
  •   Technology equipment -$2.2 million
  •   Repayment to the fund balance -$500,000

They also approved the use of ongoing expenses for:

  •   Reinstating 1.6 FTE to ensure art programs at Romig  and Gruening middle schools -$160,000
  •   Increasing teachers for middle and high school  world languages and art (1.5 FTE) -$145,000
  •   Common Core Curriculum implementation -$400,000
  •   On-line Instructional Resources -$400,000
  •   0.5 FTE for a testing position that was previously  federally funded -$60,000
  •   School Business Partnership coordinators at 21  schools - $21,000
  •   Payment to the fund balance -$500,000
  •   Repayment to the equipment maintenance fund,  which had been reduced in the February budget to lessen the impact to the classroom  -$500,000

The newly-revised budget must be approved by the assembly before the changes can be enacted. The assembly will vote on the budget on July 10.

"The board and administration dealt with our limits in  this budget responsibly. Based on future predictions, budget decisions  will continue to be distressing," said School Board President Jeannie Mackie.

Future budget deficits are estimated at over $20 million,  not including the use of the district's fund balance, which currently has  approximately $23 million in unallocated funds.

In May, the district issued layoff notices to 35 teachers  and 20 support staff personnel. The board reinstated 4.5 full-time  equivalent positions at Monday's meeting, 3.1 of which are ongoing positions,  and 1.4 of which will be eliminated after next school year. Through retirements  and the departure of other employees, the district has been able to place 15  additional teachers and six support staff in other district positions. Currently, 20 teachers and 14 support staff remain laid off. With the  reinstated positions and anticipated attrition, the district expects that these  numbers will continue decrease over the summer.

Superintendent Carol Comeau said, "I am very  appreciative of the many students, parents, community members and staff who  either testified or sent emails to the School Board and administration over the  past month. I am grateful to the School Board for their thoughtful  decision-making in making these budget adjustments in line with our fiscal  policies and anticipated future shortfalls.

"I hope that the many people who testified during these  difficult budget discussions will continue to be involved during the upcoming  election and legislative seasons. We must help our elected officials understand  that investing in public education in a manner that keeps up with the cost of  living, and ensures that we are able to deliver a comprehensive educational  program for all students, is an investment in Anchorage and its future."

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