JSD: Still no consensus on budget cuts

Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Juneau School District Budget Committee still hasn’t come to a consensus on what to cut and what to keep while eliminating $4.1 million from the budget. The committee isn’t scheduled to meet again before the recommendation goes to the school board on March 1.

The board is expected to have its first reading of proposed cuts then, with a second reading on March 15.

The school board will meet with the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on March 23 for review and discussion of the budget. The district must have its final version of the budget to CBJ by March 31.

“We ended up with a lot of different ideas,” said committee chairwoman and school board President Sally Saddler. “Some people would be comfortable raising PTR (pupil-to-teacher-ratio). Other people wanted to keep the PTR really low. We never really came up with what I would call a true consensus.”

The top things committee members wanted to see restored were keeping the art specialist, the Extended Learning teachers and the high school counselor, as well as restoring PTR at the third-grade level.

There was some support for restoring other areas with proposed cuts, but those only reached priority level for a couple of committee members.

Student representatives also weighed in, wanting to see the extended learning positions restored, PTR maintained and the high school counselor kept.

Suggestions for what to cut instead — or more of — varied more widely among committee members.

Some called for an increase in kindergarten to second grade PTR, while others honed in on either reducing or eliminating MAPS testing. Some suggested more administration cuts, a 10 percent cut to the food services budget and reduction of the travel budget.

“The bottom line is, we’ll look at a recap of the ideas,” Saddler said. “Laurie Berg (a committee member) was talking about tightening up some of the assumptions, where there are areas of the budget that may be consistently underspent and overbudgeted. What we asked the administration to do is go back, take another look at some of the suggestions.”

Saddler said a common theme in advocating against certain cuts was to cut things that didn’t directly involve student contact with teachers. She said when it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of those areas.

The administration will review the suggestions of the committee and update its proposal for the school board.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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