School district funding increases

Budget for Juneau schools up nearly $10 million for '08

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007

The legislature's last minute closed-door education funding package is being met with open arms at the Juneau School District.

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The one-year funding package set the proposed district budget for 2008 at $63.4 million - an increase of nearly $10 million over the previous year, according to David Means, director of administrative services.

"It's good news that we don't have to reduce programs," Superintendent Peggy Cowan said. The legislature funded schools at a rate slightly higher than expected, she said.

In real terms, the proposed 2008 school district's increased budget equals smaller class sizes and more support for both special education, and the gifted student's programs, Cowan said.

The district earlier had feared a funding reduction of $200 per student, but that did not materialize in the final plan.

"Enrollment is the driving factor," Cowan said.

Cowan said the district had no chance to lobby its cause to the funding committee that offered the same per-student funding rate as the year before.

Means said any financial gains for the 10,000-student district came in the form of one-time grants, including a $11 million paydown of district retirement programs.

Cowan and her budget staff began working on the final presentation of the budget proposal late last week.

"There is an extensive list of what to do with it," she said.

The district expects to offer administrative recommendations to the budget committee Tuesday afternoon and the school board during a special board meeting Tuesday night in the high school library.

Only a few plans are set as the budget proposal goes through a final tweak to consider teacher recommendations and other requests.

If accepted by the board, the new budget will move to the city finance committee.

Means said the district is certain with its plans to hire eight teachers in an effort to reduce each classroom by one student across the board. Additionally four para-educators would be added to special education programs district-wide.

The board essentially agreed to it before, Means said.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at greg.skinner@juneauempire.com



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