City ponders schools' request to deal with funding limit

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dwindling enrollment numbers have forced the city to find creative ways to funnel money to schools, resulting in an ordinance first heard by the Juneau Assembly on Monday.

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District Director of Administrative Services David Means said school enrollment dropped by 131 students this year. The Assembly will eventually decide whether to appropriate $285,900 as partial funding for the Juneau School District's general operations.

This created a dilemma for the city, which had to come up with creative ways to fund schools in compliance with state laws setting caps based on enrollment, Assembly member Merrill Sanford said.

"We gave too much money to the school district based on perceived numbers of students," Sanford said. "The city can only give so much because there is a maximum legal amount, which we are over and can't be."

The funds include a transfer of $61,600 in city funds from the district's general operations to its pupil transportation program. The city is required to remove the $61,600 from the district's general operations to keep local district funding in line with state funding.

"This is an effort to have to rearrange the funds in other appropriate areas, including transportation, sports and after-school travel," Sanford said.

"We are really concerned about those dropping enrollment numbers," Juneau Assembly member Robert Doll. "We are going to look into it."

The district projected in June that 5,356.8 students would attend Juneau schools this year. The final count brought that number down to 5,225.7, 131.10 fewer students than anticipated.

The money transferred to the transportation fund would help cover activity runs, especially from Dzantik'i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools, if approved.

A public hearing will be held at the next Assembly meeting.

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