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Assembly grants school district the maximum minimum

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The Juneau Assembly voted Monday to fund the Juneau School District at least to the maximum allowed under state-mandated spending caps next fiscal year. District officials will now have to wait to see if their request for supplemental funding is granted.

On an 8-1 vote, the Assembly set its minimum funding commitment for the district at $17,731,200. The district's total budget for the next fiscal year is about $38 million.

The Assembly was required to set a minimum amount of funding by May 1. The school district budget now will go to the Assembly's Finance Committee, which will consider the district's request for $1.4 million in city funding outside the cap over the next two years. A final decision on the level of school district funding must be made by June 1.

Superintendent Gary Bader said he is appreciative of the Assembly's decision on Monday, but hopes the panel will also grant the outside-the-cap funds.

"We're delighted to be at this juncture," he said. "We see that the Assembly is working hard to do what they can for education."

The Assembly could have set the minimum funding level as low as $10,678,800. Assembly member Dale Anderson - the lone dissenting vote to the higher amount - said he favored starting low to maintain more flexibility in the budget process.

"I think that we have a full plate before us in making decisions," he said. "We want to see all the pieces before us before we lock into numbers."

Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch spoke in support of approving the $17 million figure to prevent worry among the district's staff.

"To me, the $17 million is important for the teachers who are nontenured so they know they have a job next year," he said.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler said that while an Assembly goal this year has been to approve department budgets at "maintenance" levels, "funding at the cap is not even a maintenance budget for the school district."

Prior to the vote, several parents and teachers spoke in favor of increasing English as a second language instructional funding money that would be available if the district's "outside-the-cap" requests are granted.

"People talk about this funding as icing on the cake," Harborview Elementary School teacher Sue Baxter said of additional ESL funding. "This is not icing on the cake. This is a basic need for these students. ... They deserve more support than they are currently receiving."

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.



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