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If Legislature stays on course, school district will keep more teachers

Posted: April 10, 2014 - 12:15am

Juneau School District officials met city leaders Wednesday to discuss the district’s funding situation, but a lack of certainty on the amount of state funding to be expected meant few details were discussed.

David Means, director of administrative services for the district, told the Assembly Finance Committee that the district anticipates $1.6 million more in state funding next year than it received this year.

Factoring in an expected $200,000 reduction in City and Borough of Juneau funding, that increase drops to about $1.4 million, he said.

Legislators say Juneau should receive more than that — about $2.4 million over this year’s figures, but with debates ongoing, it’s too early to say.

“The music sounds better from the hill right now, but the music hasn’t stopped,” Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said of the state funding picture. “It’s still playing; the dance is still going up there.”

District officials provided the Assembly with an updated “addback” list that shows where additional money would be directed. The district has already finalized $4.5 million in cuts.

If the Alaska Legislature approves additional money, the top priority is restoring 10 teaching positions — a proposal with a $1 million price tag. Restoring those jobs would mean smaller class sizes.

When the district announced its cuts, it predicted average class sizes would rise by three students. With 10 more teachers, the average rises by only one.

The Legislature’s current budget has enough money to save those 10 teachers, three other positions, allow the district to purchase a new music curriculum and help the district maintain $140,000 in assistance for high school activities.

Should the city continue to provide the maximum local funding allowed by state law, JSD would receive another $570,000. With Juneau facing a local budget crunch, however, that increase is not likely.

The finance committee also approved $4.7 million in projects and expenditures for marine passenger fee revenue next year.

The $4.7 million is divided among 29 projects in three categories: city government operations, operating grants for non-government entities serving the general public, and capital grants.

Some of the operating expenditures include $87,000 for an increased Juneau Police Department presence downtown during the busy summer months, about $185,000 for downtown sidewalk cleaning and restroom maintenance and $195,800 for four additional seasonal EMTs.

One of the largest items on the list is $1.2 million for improvements to the well field at Last Chance Basin. The state capital budget includes $1.35 million for the same project.

Though the Assembly took no action on its budget, Mayor Merrill Sanford cautioned members to consider the full impact of any budget changes.

“It’s important to us, our community and to workers and construction workers out there that depend on those dollars coming through to do these things,” Sanford said of capital projects.

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Ronald Lind
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Ronald Lind 04/10/14 - 08:10 pm
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Local funding "cap"

Education funding at the local level should not be to the "cap" without regard for other local programs and the results being achieved by the local school district.
Where is the evidence that smaller class sizes will result if measurable and significant improvements in the earning potential of Juneau students? Are the current levels of teacher salaries and other expenditures achieving results that could not be reached at lower cost levels?
There are priorities other than education in Juneau which must be considered now and in the future. The impact of property taxes and other borough fees and costs on individuals must be considered. How will a balance be reached?
Just rallying around the slogan "funding to the cap" OH don't forget to fund items outside the cap does not meet the overall needs of all residents of Juneau.

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