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JSD budget could cut more than 66 positions

Board member calls state action "criminal"

Posted: January 18, 2012 - 12:02am

The Juneau School District got it’s first look at what $3.6 million to $5.9 million in cuts look like, with many cuts hitting administration, classroom sizes and other programming.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich introduced the heavy topic Tuesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School for the budget committee meeting. Among the packed room of about 50 people included Assemblywoman Karen Crane and Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley.

Gelbrich spoke of the success the district has had in increased graduation rates at both comprehensive high schools, increased reading achievement and significantly higher math achievement results.

“Tonight, I bring you a budget that could seriously undermine our progress,” Gelbrich said.

The committee asked many questions for clarification, and several chose to also include commentary.

Board member Mark Choate was the first to pipe in his displeasure of the funding situation.

“This feels like we’re at a funeral right now,” he said. “I have an image of a room filled with food, flowing out the windows and flowing out the doors. Someone outside is saying there’s no food, there’s nothing to eat but stone soup. This is criminal, this is about as bad as it can be that a state with an $18 billion excess this year is taking money from children. To take the jobs from this district is simply wrong. I’ll do what I can as a community member to say this up on the hill. There’s lots of things we can talk about and do to improve. But we should not be sitting here talking about being broke with the resources the state has.”

Board member Sally Saddler shared the same sentiment. She said she thought she knew what she was getting into with the estimated deficit, but to see the proposed cuts is sad.

“I feel like I’ve been sucker punched,” Saddler said. “There is a perception out there that there is a lot of waste. As I sat and listened … it’s clear we’re cutting to the bone. We need to be rallying. I’m getting over my sad and getting into my mad.”

Superintendent Gelbrich also addressed state funding. He said the Alaska Association of School Business Officials have said an increase in the Base Student Allocation would need to be by $320 per student. Gelbrich said that kind of funding level in Alaska is unprecedented and unlikely to come to fruition. He said the governor’s budget proposal maintains flat funding levels for the next three fiscal years for education funding.

“...I want to emphasize that the current level of funding for public education is detrimental to the future of Alaska, to its economic development, to the strength of our communities, and to the future of our students,” Gelbrich said. “Unless we are willing to further invest in the greatest resources we have — the capacity of our state’s children — we are undermining the potential of Alaska.”

Gelbrich talked about estimates gathered by Juneau Economic Development Council Director Brian Holst — who is also on the committee. JEDC estimates that the cutting of those positions will have an economic impact of -$11.4 million on Juneau.

The operating fund budget revenues for FY12 are $75.3 million, with $74.8 million in expenditures. Estimated FY13 revenues are at $73 million, with $72.4 million in expenditures including budget reductions.

The FY13 budget proposal includes $3.3 million in additions to the operating fund budget — but that figure is a bit deceptive. For example, $1.2 million of those “additions” are positions and programs that already exist in the district, but were not previously part of the operating fund. They are being moved into the central part of the budget because their funding sources were from grants or federal dollars. Another assumption in that $3.3 million is an estimated $900,000 increase in salaries and benefits as the district is currently negotiating with its two largest unions. Gelbrich said they can’t put the number at zero because the district has to negotiate in good faith, however that doesn’t mean the nearly $900,000 will be that much — or that little.

Aside from those two top dollar budgetary additions, the rest include things like adjusting cost allocation to Juneau Community Charter School, increased costs to try and stabilize Internet services and computers, unemployment compensation, AEL&P rate increase, fuel oil increase, educational leadership center and similar expenditures.

The cut list hits administration pretty hard this year, Gelbrich said — at least compared to percentage of that sector’s budget — but students will still be impacted. Approximately 66.3 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) positions are expected to be eliminated given the “worst case” scenario.

Gelbrich said five of 23 jobs at the central office are being eliminated (22 percent).

Cuts by employee group consist of 1 position from the cabinet at 17 percent of the cabinet FTE — $80,000.

• 3 FTE from the JSAA (Juneau Administrative Association) for 12.7 percent — $452,000.

• 11 percent from JESS (Juneau Educational Support Staff) for 34.8 FTE — $2.2 million.

• 26.5 FTE from the Juneau Education Association for 7 percent (teachers) — $2.6 million.

• 1 FTE from a non-union, non-cabinet position for $123,000 at 6.25 percent.

On a school level to school level basis, cuts also were broken down.

• $706,000 at all schools.

• $1.4 million from elementary schools.

• $791,000 from middle schools.

• $1.4 million from high schools.

• $214,000 from optional programs.

• and $1.3 million from the district level.

Cuts include reduction for declining enrollment (estimated by 26 students), reducing legal services to $100,000 max, elimination of a student services coordinator, elimination of one high school assistant principal (leaving one each) but also adding in one teacher for the activities program (still a net loss), six positions between maintenance and custodial staff — merging custodian and maintenance supervisor positions, reducing elementary specialists by .50 FTE at each school, and eliminating a data technician.

They also reduce high school activities fund, cut a finance support staff position, cut high school assistant librarian positions, eliminate secondary instructional coaches, reduce Extended Learning staff by three, reduce site budgets by 5 percent, reduce district supply budgets by 5 percent, reduce HomeBRIDGE supply by $20,000, reduce special education para educators, increase Pupil-to-Teacher ratio at all schools by one, eliminate truancy officer, eliminate assistant superintendent position (Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling offered to retire in December. (That position won’t be refilled, and her office assistant will be cut thereafter as well. One art specialist will be eliminated. Last year that area was reduced by one as well.

Cuts will also eliminate six of 10 full time school nurses and replace them with health assistants.

Gelbrich and Director of Administrative Services David Means also included “add-backs” in case more revenues come in than projected.

Those add-backs include — in no particular order — cultural para-educators, middle school counselors (1 FTE is proposed to be cut from each), lower PTR by 1, elimination of drug testing contract services at the high school ($45,000), add 2.0 FTE back from custodial. Total add-backs are about $1.1 million.

Gelbrich said that with last year’s cuts they were lucky because the staff losses were through attrition. He said the number of cuts required this year make that unlikely this year.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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