School district given maximum funding

$565,000 requested for sports activities heads to standby list

Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This story has been corrected. (See bottom for details)

The Juneau Assembly approved the Juneau School District's $87.9 million operating budget Monday for the 2009-2010 school year but withheld judgment on a smaller pot earmarked for reducing the cost of participating in school athletics and activities.

That effort, which cost the city $200,000 in its first year and that officials had planned to ratchet up to $565,000 in the upcoming budget year, was championed by top school officials who pleaded with the Assembly on Monday to follow through with the effort because of its effectiveness in making school activities more financially accessible - "You almost had to be rich to play in sports," School Board member Andi Story said - and reducing dropout rates.

The budget ordinance before the Assembly included local support of the School District's classrooms at the maximum amount allowed by state law, $24.8 million in this case. That cap is defined as a percentage match of state funding for local education, though support of school sports and activities are exempt from that cap.

The ordinance relegated $809,000 in outside-the-cap requests of the school district to the Assembly's pending request list, a temporary repository holding several organizations' funding requests. The purpose of the list is to let the Assembly treat them comprehensively, instead of piecemeal. The Assembly's Finance Committee is scheduled to take up the pending request list May 6. The additional $244,000 would go toward non-classroom expenses.

Assemblyman Jeff Bush tried to amend the ordinance to include most of the beyond-the-cap funding but withdrew the amendment after three Assembly members quickly objected to wait for the comprehensive look.

In other meeting news:

• The Assembly approved the city's $301.5 million budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That budget covers core city functions, debt service, capital projects and semi-autonomous city-owned operations like Bartlett Regional Hospital, Eaglecrest Ski Area and Juneau International Airport.

• The Assembly approved an extra $390,000 for the city streets department to cover a shortfall anticipated to accrue by the end of the fiscal year June 30. The department, which has an annual budget of about $5.3 million, is expected to be over budget due largely to the unusually snowy winter - the fourth snowiest on record with 180.3 inches, according to National Weather Service forecaster Jim Truitt.

Streets Superintendent Mike Scott said snow-hauling contracts, which are based on volume, caused the most significant overruns. Additional overruns occurred for fuel, equipment repairs, road chemicals, overtime and increased electric costs for streetlights in the aftermath of January's avalanche that took down a Snettisham power line for three weeks. Road repairs this spring are expected to be more demanding as well, due to freeze-thaw cycles and flooding.

"As we're all painfully aware, it took a huge toll on our roads," Swope said.

• The Assembly introduced measures to finance a $3 million portion of the construction cost for the Downtown Transportation Center underway at the corner of Egan Drive and Main Street in anticipation of a $3 million federal grant bound for it as a shovel-ready stimulus project.

• The Assembly authorized City Manager Rod Swope to negotiate with Taku Fisheries at 550 South Franklin Street for waterfront rights that will allow the city to extend the seawalk further down South Franklin. The city’s long range plans for the downtown waterfront call for a 16-foot wide recreational seawalk running from the Douglas Bridge to the Thane Road rock dump to the south.

The story misstates the Assembly's action on its $301.5 million operating budget. The Assembly did not approve the budget. It held a public hearing on it and referred it to its Finance Committee.

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