Against the recommendation of its superintendent, the Juneau School Board voted Tuesday night to provide an extra $10,000 to the Juneau Community Charter School to help cover a deficit in the school's budget for next year. The board also OK'd $25,000 to buy new equipment for the Juneau-Douglas High School auto mechanics program.
The charter school is a public school serving about 60 students managed by a committee of parents that rents space downtown.
The charter school is $40,000 over budget because it failed to find funding sources before existing grants ran out, school officials said. Earlier in the school district's budget process, the board asked the Juneau Assembly to fund a list of items, including the charter school's $40,000 rent, but the Assembly only partly funded that request.
At the School Board meeting Tuesday, board members justified the extra funding, saying the school needed it because the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium, where the charter school normally holds a large fund-raiser, will be closed this season for renovation.
The school district receives money from the state on a per-pupil basis. Superintendent Gary Bader recommended against any budget increases at this time, because the funds would be drawn from what the school district anticipates - but is not guaranteed - to receive from the state due to increased enrollment.
"I just don't like spending money that isn't in the bank yet," Bader said.
The proposal for the auto mechanics equipment and the charter school funding came from board member Stan Ridgeway. Ridgeway said the mechanic-training program was using outdated equipment and its graduates weren't able to find jobs that required different skills than they were being trained for.
If the district bought new equipment, programs would be certified by national automakers, and those corporations would supply additional equipment and funds, Ridgeway said.
Ridgeway also proposed the charter school receive $22,500, the amount the school usually raises in a year from the community.
"With the vote of the Assembly (to renovate the high school before the new high school is built), this is one of the groups that was shut out for fund-raising," said Ridgeway, who is running for an Assembly seat.
He said the loss to the many groups that use the auditorium to raise funds was just one of the many "hidden costs" of the high school renovation the district must bear.
With members Ridgeway, Mary Becker, Deana Darnall, Carolyn Spalding and Daniel Peterson voting, the proposal that included the $22,500 failed, with Becker and Peterson voting against it.
Becker said she didn't understand how so much of the school's fund-raising revenue would be lost if the venue for its fund-raiser changed. The group could rent Centennial Hall for only $700, she said.
Michael Stark, president of the Academic Policy Committee for the charter school, said aside from having to rent the venue, some of the performers who usually participate in the school's arts gala fund-raiser wouldn't perform at Centennial Hall because of its poor acoustics. Stark asked the board to consider granting less than $22,500.
At Ridgeway's suggestion, Becker reintroduced the funding measure, this time reducing the amount for the charter school to $10,000. The $35,000 measure, which included the auto mechanics equipment and the charter school money, passed unanimously.
Stark said the charter school does not anticipate it will have such a large deficit in the fiscal year 2005 budget process. The original seed money from the federal government and some other grants have run out, Stark said, and the school is searching for new funding.
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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