School Board OKs $64 million budget

$800,000 allocated to reduce class size

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007

Closing out a second night of wrangling, the Juneau School Board voted to accept the $64.4 million operating budget for the 2008 school year. The new budget is $10 million more than last year's funding.

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State and the city funding created the bulk of the overall budget, at $28.3 million and $22.5 million, respectively. Additionally, the state contributed a one-time grant of $11.2 million to pay down district retirement programs, money that would have otherwise come from the classroom.

The largest line-item expenditure of $800,000 went to reduce class sizes district-wide by one student, as promised earlier.

Substitute teachers will see a pay increase in 2008, with an additional $245,000 to be used for salaries. The budget also included $240,000 to expand elementary art programs and technical education. The budget allows $100,000 to train staff on using a new $250,000 student information system.

Before final agreement came, the board discussed the myriad of ways to spend $1.6 million not previously budgeted.

On the table were teacher computer upgrades, extended learning programs, money for Discovery Southeast, a request to bring librarians back full time and a program to work with emotionally disturbed students in middle school.

"Every one of these items touches kids" board president Bill Peters said.

"This is the first time we've had extra money to consider doing good with," board member Margo Waring said.

2008 expenditures

• Reduce class size: $800,000.

• Substitute teacher pay: $245,000.

• Computers for teachers: $213,000.

• Extended learning: $200,000.

• Para-educators: $132,000.

• Technical education: $120,000.

• Elementary art program: $120,000.

• System training: $100,000.

• Program for students: $115,000.

Against district recommendations, the board supported a $115,000 program at Floyd Dryden Middle School to work with students with behavior disorders or emotionally disturbed students. The district proposed waiting another year before adding the program, saying that without quality staff the program could cause more harm than good.

"We have a need, it's not right to wait another year," board member Mary Becker said.

Waring criticized a proposed $213,000 to replace or upgrade teacher computers in 2008.

"There is no inventory no schedule on what needs to be replaced," Waring said.

Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the request was reasonable for a district with 350 teachers.

"I think 178 computers is modest," Cowan said.

The board funded the computers.

Commenting on a need for full-time librarians, board member Mark Choate said "early literacy is critical."

He wondered if $200,000 to fully staff libraries would do more to help reduce dropout rates than it would if spent on extended learning programs.

"We have to ask how to best use this money," Choate said.

"We need full-time librarians at the elementary school," board member Andi Story said.

The board did not the full-time positions, but agreed to revisit the staffing issue.

By the end of the meeting, the school board passed 33 of 44 additional funding requests and kept a projected reserve of $528,370.

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