The Juneau School District may be able to overcome a budget gap exceeding $1 million over the next two years without cutting any staff or programs - but it's going to take some help from above.
Superintendent Gary Bader outlined the district administration's budget recommendations for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to the School Board budget committee on Monday. The viability of the proposal particularly in the second year - will depend on additional city, state and federal funding.
"It's clear that the school district needs additional funding," Bader said.
Under Bader's recommendations, the district would ask the city for the full amount possible under the state-mandated cap on local funds that can go toward district operating expenses, plus an additional $450,000 in funding for each of the two years to cover non-cap items. That $450,000 could come from the city's federal timber receipt funds.
In fiscal year 2003, the non-cap items would include $25,000 for a school nutrition study, $307,000 for technology, and $118,000 to cover the cost of kindergarten busing. In fiscal 2004, $332,000 would go to technology and $118,000 to kindergarten busing.
"If (the extra funds) don't come through, we don't have a school nutrition study, we have a full-day kindergarten and our technology continues to fall behind," Bader said.
The extra city money, along with a $943,315 surplus from this year and federal funding to cover special education salary increases, would balance the budget for fiscal year 2003.
For fiscal year 2004, with a projected budget gap of $816,725 and no surplus to carry over, Bader outlined potential staffing reductions but said he is hopeful additional state and federal funding will make them unnecessary.
Should the extra funding not materialize, Bader's recommendations included a 5 percent reduction in custodial staff, a 7 percent reduction in support staff allocations, and a 2 percent increase in the pupil-teacher ratio.
Other items included in the recommendations are a $25,000 increase for high school vocational education equipment in 2003 and a person to track truants at $35,000 a year.
Board member Chuck Cohen said the district is in great need of additional funding to replace and maintain computer equipment.
"It probably ought to be more than that," he said. "(Computer equipment) doesn't last forever. It will in time become obsolete, and there is currently no budget line item to (replace it)."
Cohen said he would like to see the district identify more areas in which the city could provide more funding outside of the cap, including the rental payments for Yakoosg Daakahdi Alternative High School and activity buses.
"If we're going to go to the city with a request for supplemental funding ... we ought to identify all the ways we are spending money that the city could or should pay," he said. "We ought to put forward what we need and ask for the money, and if they say no, then make some tough choices."
School Board and Assembly members will participate in a joint work session on the budget next Tuesday. The district budget is due to the Assembly by March 29.
"We are really hoping that the Assembly will see the need for these items and fund them outside the cap," board President Mary Becker said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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