Everything on table in school budget cuts

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Juneau School Board began discussions on the 2019 school budget and will face more declines in student population, state aid, and a $3 million budget shortfall.

The workshop was designed to set priorities for the budget this year.  The original plan called for basic expenditures of over $61 million.  The board said it might be better to start with a basic spending plan of between $55 and $58 million and then put things back into the spending plan.

"Maybe we can't afford to be basic anymore," School Superintendent Mark Miller said.

President Brian Holst said the district should start with the bare minimum funds to operate the district.  He suggested the district look at having the CBJ take over more responsibility over facility maintenance, an item which cost the schools $1.9 million this year.

School Board member Josh Keaton agreed there would be painful cuts this year, "It is going to be tough.  We when say everything is on the table...give us something to start with."

At a combined site council meeting earlier this month suggestions for ways to cut costs in elementary schools included elimination of optional programs, maximize facility efficiencies, cut out of town professional development trips, a temporary moratorium on new technology, a reduction in standardized testing, an evaluation to combine more sports teams, reduction of instructional coaches, and using city buses where school bus routes overlap.

The high school group suggested ideas like drug testing, reduction of graduation requirements, fewer textbooks, and potential consolidation of programs.

The board suggested they could ask the CBJ to increase funding for school activities by about $400,000 this year.  In a normal year the district loses about 35 teachers to retirement and resignations and those positions could remain open to save funds.

A consultant's report found student enrollment could drop by another 54 students to 4,547 students next fall.

The board also discussed school consolidation but no consensus has been reached.

The budget schedule includes public forums on February 6th at Thunder Mountain High School and February 7th at Juneau Douglas High School.  Both meetings will be held in the library.  Another budget workshop is planned on February 20th at JDHS.  The district would like to approve the budget on March 27 and present it to the Assembly on March 30.

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