The Juneau School Board is facing at least a $4.5 million difference between new budget requests for next year and what it will have available to spend, according to a preliminary budget report.
School Board members got their first glance at the Juneau School District's almost $6 million wish list for additions to the proposed $67 million budget Tuesday night at a budget workshop.
But preliminary budget forecasts only leave the district $400,00 to $1.4 million to spend on unmet budget needs, depending on how much of an increase the state Legislature puts toward education funding this session.
The additional spending requests, which came from within the district and members of the public, include about $1.4 million for technology-related increases, a $400,000 to $800,000 increase for sports and extracurricular activities, and almost $1 million for elementary school literacy teachers.
David Means, the district's director of administrative services, prepared the budget report. He said the large number of requests for additional spending were probably due to an overestimation of how much more state money the district would be getting. Overall, Means said, the proposed net increase in state funds wasn't as great as many assumed.
"They weren't looking at the whole entire picture," Means said.
The district's overall revenues are projected to be anywhere between $3.3 million to $4.3 million higher in the 2009 fiscal year than this year. But much of that increased money is already spoken for.
Negotiated salary increases will cost the district $2 million, and the School Board approved spending $1.1 million earlier this month on opening the new Thunder Mountain High School next year.
District officials stressed that projected revenue totals were preliminary and they were only in the beginning of the budgeting process. Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the district had asked for budgeting requests earlier this year so the School Board would have more time to examine the proposed increases and the overall budget as a whole.
Though the deadline for requests was Wednesday, Cowan said other requests could still be made.
"The board can always consider an idea," Cowan said.
The School Board has several more meetings scheduled to discuss the budget before it is due to submit one to the Juneau Assembly by the end of March. It has scheduled to hear public testimony on the budget March 11.
School Board member Mark Choate said he was hopeful that the board would take more than just a perfunctory look at the district's entire budget.
"We can't just roll the budget over," Choate said. "We have to look at (each program.)"
Choate and most other School Board members said they were eager to see an increase in spending for school sports and extracurricular activities.
A special task force, which was set up to advise the district and the city about how to fund activities, recommended to the School Board last week that the district spend $400,000 to $800,000. The task force was scheduled to meet again today to further discuss the district's funding levels.
Some other big-ticket requests include:
$339,112 for substance abuse counselors in secondary schools.
$425,000 for new science materials.
$492,691 for a "technology retro-fit" at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
$208,633 increase for the Indian Studies Program.
$241,209 for elementary library media specialists.
Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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