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House education plan saves Juneau $2.1M

Proposal could restore 14 district teaching jobs

Posted: April 2, 2014 - 12:06am
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Mike Hanley, Commissioner of Education & Early Development, along with Angela Rodell, Commissioner of Revenue, right, testify in front of the House Finance Committee on changes to the Governor's education bill on Tuesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Mike Hanley, Commissioner of Education & Early Development, along with Angela Rodell, Commissioner of Revenue, right, testify in front of the House Finance Committee on changes to the Governor's education bill on Tuesday.

The House Finance committee unveiled its revised omnibus education bill Tuesday, and while the matter is far from settled the initial impression is positive for the Juneau School District.

Originally proposed by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, HB278 now calls for increasing the base student allocation by $185 this year and $58 in each of the following two years.

The increase, coupled with a change to a portion of the education funding formula related to school size, means Juneau’s increased funding would be about $2.1 million.

According to JSD Director of Administrative Services David Means, increased funding from the state would mean the district could add back items recently cut from the budget.

Because the number is not final, Means declined to comment specifically on how the district would use the money, but he pointed to an “Add Back” list created by the budget committee this spring that prioritizes cuts to reinstate should additional funding become available.

The 13-item list includes restoring 17 positions — 14 of which are teachers — and has a total price tag of about $1.8 million. Under this proposal, the district would have just over $300,000 left after adding back those items.

Still, the House Finance proposal does little to answer the session-long question on education funding.

Several sources with knowledge about the decision-making process indicated Tuesday that a $25 million one-time funding item for schools proposed by Parnell would likely be cut as a trade-off for adding an additional $100 to the BSA.

“Ultimately, I think the $25 million will come out, but there will be an additional increase in the BSA to compensate for it,” Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, told the Empire after the House plan was unveiled.

The Senate Finance Committee recently added $75 million in one-time funding to the operating budget previously approved by the House — a move Muñoz said is likely telling of what will happen next.

“The $75 million, to me, is a signal to the House that the Senate is looking at somewhere between $250 and $300 in a BSA increase,” she said.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican and Senate finance co-chair responsible for the $75-million addition, said the amount was added because it is “somewhere in the neighborhood” of what school districts have told lawmakers they need to stave off cuts.

“There are a lot of moving parts regarding education: (the Teachers’ Retirement System), BSA, the omnibus education bill, the $75 million — what will probably come out of this session is some combination of all those things,” Kelly said in an email.

Some in the House Republican Caucus do not favor a large increase in the BSA, which means the $185 figure could be the largest amount that clears the powerful House Finance Committee.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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