The Juneau School District is looking at about $625,000 in cuts to balance its budget, even if the Alaska Legislature approves Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposed funding increases.
The district's preliminary budget for next school year, which is fiscal 2006, also assumes the city will give local schools the most money the law allows, district Business Manager Gary Epperson told the Juneau School Board on Tuesday.
Without the anticipated state and city funding increases, the district would be looking at large cuts to staffing, Epperson said.
The preliminary budget assumes $46.35 million in revenues, about $3.2 million more than this school year's budget.
The district projects it will have 5,314 students next school year, 17 more than this year.
The additional money would cover increases in salaries, benefits and required payments to retirement funds, and new secondary math textbooks.
Murkowski's proposal would give the Juneau district about $2.4 million a year more than it receives now from the combined state and mandated city funding.
That increase also would trigger a higher maximum for the city's voluntary extra contribution to schools.
The district's preliminary budget assumes the city will give the schools about $890,000 more than it appropriated for this school year. Part of this increase is to the city's minimally required school funding, and is caused by a hike in the value of assessed property in Juneau.
"Hopefully, if all this takes place, all of those horrendous reductions we were looking at will go away for '06," Epperson said.
In March 2004, the School Board approved a budget for this school year and next school year. But to account for changes in revenues and expenses, the district is revisiting the second-year budget.
The preliminary budget amendment for next school year would trim $627,000 by tentatively dropping a number of positions that weren't part of the usual method of allotting staff.
The district was responding to unexpected bulges in enrollments, a special request, and a desire to cut the dropout rate.
The additions included the equivalent of 1.6 teachers at Juneau-Douglas High School, a kindergarten teacher each at Gastineau and Glacier Valley elementary schools, a teacher at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, and a Montessori teacher at Glacier Valley.
The additions also included three secondary school counseling positions intended to reduce the dropout rate.
Instead, the district will use its usual formula for allotting staff based on enrollments, said schools Superintendent Peggy Cowan.
It's up to principals, with the advice of site councils, to allocate staff within schools and try to even out the class sizes.
Next school year's budget assumes the same ratio of students to teachers as in this school year.
A projected increase in enrollment at JDHS will generate about three more teachers there, Epperson said.
If enough Montessori students enroll at Glacier Valley to pay for a teacher, the school will be allocated a teacher, Cowan said.
Educators and parents on the district's budget advisory board said its highest priority was reducing class sizes.
The district continues to hear from parents of kindergartners about large class sizes, for example.
It would cost nearly $1 million to significantly lower class sizes, the district has said.
That's just part of a $4 million wish list the district has categorized as critical and unmet needs.
The Legislature would need to nearly triple Murkowski's proposed increase to pay for all that, Epperson said.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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