Banking on the likelihood that the state Legislature won’t raise the amount of money paid per student, the Juneau school board Monday heard a first reading of a budget that contains $1.7 million in budget reductions.
The Administrative Team’s 2014 budget does not restore two full-time nursing positions as requested by the JSD budget Committee March 5, but does restore middle and high school Pupil to Teacher Ratios to the Fiscal Year 13 levels and adds back half of the district drug testing program.
The total proposed budget is $77,055,207.
The plan to bring in five health aides in addition to the district’s licensed nurses brought out several school nurses and some members of the budget committee to urge restoration of trained nurses.
Auke Bay school nurse Luanne Powers spoke of her disappointment at the last-minute nature of the nursing proposal’s unveiling, calling it “a little red herring,” a plan where the district is putting something very bad out there so a lesser cut later might not seem so bad.
Powers said nurses can prevent emergency medical calls as well as provide care for special needs kids, and may even need to assist staff members.
School nurse Maureen Hall, who covers two campuses, said moving to a health aide model will move the district toward providing substandard care. Health aides “sure don’t know how to be a school nurse.” She said the people making decisions about the nursing program don’t know the complete nature of their duties as school nurses.
Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said there was a wide swath of district administrative representation involved in getting the current budget where it is now, and there was agreement about the nursing program.
Site administrators, as well as district office administrators, were on the review team. “Whatever it’s worth there was consensus this is the budget to bring forward.”
While the budget panel sought a $50,000 reduction in the district’s technology department, the district chose to eliminate one IT position but add two months to six 10-month IT positions.
That brought IT employee Leslie Antolick to the microphone with some cautions.
“By cutting positions, the administration is making the department short-handed during the school year when over 5,000 students and staff are looking for assistance,” Antolick said. “Yet there is an increase in personnel during the non-school months when there are about 250 persons needing assistance. This provides a ratio of one tech to about every 22 on-duty employees, many of which are on the administrative team. The administration working in the summer will enjoy a better ratio than the pupil/teacher ratio.”
The Administrative Team’s proposal accepted the budget panel’s advice and borrowed $100,000 from the Pupil Transportation Fund.
Board President Sally Saddler questioned the rationale of “kicking the can down the road” with this method of borrowing.
Superintendent Gelbrich said the administration realizes this is just a way to delay, “one-time money we can use if needed to fund other programs.”
Following public testimony, some board members had specific questions about liability and the nursing program change. Board member Destiny Sargeant offered some perspective.
“No matter what we do, it’s going to be painful for many,” Sergeant said. She noted that for everything someone wants to add back, something else must go. “If you want low PTR you can’t have everything.”
“This is a difficult situation” Saddler added. She said board members are taking the budget deliberations very seriously, and the final reading is on March 26. The final copy goes to the Borough on March 29. After that, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has 30 days to let JSD know how much money will be sent.
Saddler told board members, “Do your homework.”