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JSD to take last look at budget before sending it to Assembly

Posted: March 27, 2012 - 12:12am

The Juneau School District is expected to take its final look at a budget that cuts $5.8 million before it sends the budget to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.

This is the second year of large cuts for the district, savings proposals that have again garnered a lot of public feedback on what not to cut.

The cuts aren’t just fat, but meat as well, according to employees of the district, the superintendent and members of the school board. Cutbacks include two increases of the pupil-to-teacher ratio by two students per educator — a ratio that was increased by one student last year for most grade levels. It includes cuts to special education paraprofessionals, two school nurses, the school truancy officer, second assistant principals at the high schools, the assistant superintendent, custodial and maintenance staff and a myriad of other positions totaling roughly 66 people.

The district has gotten this large deficit largely due to the end of a lot of one-time or temporary funding sources. Some of those programs and positions that were paid for by grants or other resources are being moved into the general fund, some of them aren’t — for example, cultural paraprofessional educators.

The district assumes in this budget the state will flat-fund the base student allocation, even though there is a bill in the Legislature to increase it for next year. It also assumes the city will continue its funding to the cap, along with special funds like high school activities that are outside the cap. It assumes a student population 4,916 for fiscal year 2013, and a drop of 36 students in fiscal year 2014.

The information packet in Tuesday’s meeting materials lists the pros and cons of the budget. The district believes the budget process has been transparent, understandable and comprehensive, and the cuts were made as far away from the classroom as possible.

The cons listed show some of the mood of administration from these cuts.

“Some cuts may be too deep to provide ongoing support to the District’s students and classroom teachers,” it states. “This budget no longer trims the ‘fat,’ it cuts deeply into the very fiber of the District. There will be difficulties in implementing the reductions.”

It also states the district will lose many “stellar” employees in this process — either through new roles or people having to leave the district. The Juneau Economic Development Council estimated these cuts in personnel will have an $11.4 million adverse impact on the city’s economy.

Last month the board got its first official look at the budget — all board members were a part of the citizen/union comprised budget committee. Many members were uncomfortable with the paraeducator hour reduction — which will make them part-time employees instead of full-time — and arts reductions.

In other business, the board will take a look at how to better work with Juneau Community Foundation concerning education funding.

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

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