School Board ponders budget

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau Board of Education set budget priorities Tuesday.

The unknowns in state aid this year have made it difficult to develop a district budget this year.  The district could receive $11 million less from the state for the 2019-2020 school year.

The proposed spending plan could take $551,637 from reserves.

Line items include $2.08 million for utilities, $1.4 million for the Juneau Community Charter School, $5.4 million for the state retirement system, $10.2 million for elementary school teachers, $4.6 million for middle school teachers, and over $6.7 million for high school teachers.  Montessori teachers would receive $1.2 million.

Superintendent Dr. Bridget Weiss submitted four additional items, $132,000 to hire a Student Services Coordinator, $53,560 to add a counselor position at Montessori School, and $6,500 for additional to support to the Home Bridge program.  She also requested $20,000 for coordinated high school course support.

The ongoing salary negotiations with employees are not factored into the proposed budget.

The budget also includes $1.91 million for maintenance, $3.27 million for custodial services, $1.42 million for information technology, $1.66 million for principals, $603,364 for assistant principals, $3.55 million for classified staff, $862,547 for health services, $10.8 million for special education classroom support, $1.59 million for special education preschool, $1.12 million for English language learners, and $1.29 million for administrative services and fiscal services.

Human resources would receive $735,315.

School Board member Jeff Short said he thinks the district should make adjustments to special education program eligibility.   He suggested the district places students in the program that don't need to be there.   As a result, Short contends, the district spends more money on special education than they need to.  He supported funding the Student Services Coordinator position that could help classify students more accurately.

Short said an Alaska native student in Juneau schools is three times more likely to be diagnosed as either health impaired or developmentally delayed.  "In some instances, these are inappropriate designations.  It is costing us $2 million per year." 

Dr. Weiss said a lack of resources may be the main reason for this problem.

Three teachers in the district spoke on behalf of special education funding. 

The administration defended the budget for three instructional coaches at the elementary level.  Each coach costs $107,751 per year.

Board of Education President Brian Holst said the district does not know how much funding it will have and they may have to come back later in the year and revisit the budget.

The first reading of the budget will be held on Tuesday, March 12 at 6 pm at Thunder Mountain High School.  The Board also holds an annual meeting with the CBJ Assembly on March 14 at 5:30 pm.

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