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ASD to host community budget dialogues

Input requested on how to close a  $15 million budget gap The district will host three budget  dialogues to gather community input before it finalizes the 2011-12 school  budget.

Current estimates place the General  Fund budget gap at $15 million. This gap is caused by increases to utilities, supplies, employee contracts and other general cost of living increases. The  estimate includes the district assuming full funding of the School Resource Officer program and half of the costs for local property tax billings and collections, as laid out in an Anchorage Assembly resolution. It also includes  more than $7 million in revenue from the federal Education Jobs bill. See ASD School Board  Memorandum # 125 - Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Financial  Planning Discussion (http://www.asdk12.org/School_Board/Archives/2010-2011/20101108/I05M125.pdf) for the Assembly resolution and school board discussion.

This deficit does not include the  cost of programs that were implemented as part of the American Recovery and  Reinvestment Act stimulus funds.

The district has contracted with  local firms Information Insights and Agnew::Beck to host a series of community  dialogues in the coming weeks. The gatherings will be similar to the  municipality's budget meetings. There are three opportunities for staff,  parents and the community to engage in the budget process. The meetings are as  follows:

Dec.  1 at Clark Middle School, 6-9 p.m.
Dec.  2 at Hanshew Middle School, 6-9 p.m.
Dec.  4 at Gruening Middle School, 1-4 p.m.

A fourth budget dialogue meeting was held exclusively for Student Advisory Board  members on Nov. 4. Community members and staff are urged to register for one of  the community dialogues, either online at http://www.asdk12.org/depts/budget or by calling 742-4153.

The district will incorporate  suggestions from the community dialogues, employee bargaining units, the  district's online suggestion box and other input into the budget development  process. A new value-based budget process is being implemented for the  development of the 2011-12 General Fund budget. As part of this process, every  department will be scrutinized to evaluate effectiveness and efficiency.

"This budget gap is extremely large  and the outcome will be difficult and disappointing to all of us. Valued employees will lose their jobs, programs will be eliminated and user fees will  likely increase," said Comeau.

Superintendent Comeau will present a  balanced budget to the Anchorage School Board the third week of January as  required by board policy and municipal charter.

The budget does not become final until approved by the Assembly in March. Even then, it may be revised based on legislative appropriation of education funding.

"There are concerns that the  district cries wolf due to the timing of the budget process," said Chad  Stiteler, Chief Financial Officer. "At this time, this gap is very real. We  must base our budget on current guidance and assumptions. That information  currently puts us $15 million in the hole. If the assembly and state Legislature choose to alter their current levels of support, we would then revise the budget accordingly."

More information on the budget and  the development process is available on the district's budget website at http://www.asdk12.org/depts/budget. Parents, students and the community are also  encouraged to submit suggestions in the online comment box found on that page.

A printable PDF version flier regarding the upcoming community dialogues can be downloaded at http://www.asdk12.org/depts/Budget/1112/Community_dialogue_flier.pdf.

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