Anchorage School Board Faces Hard Budget Choices

Yesterday morning School Superintendent Carol Comeau presented her administration’s proposed 2012-2013 budget to the Anchorage School Board, which then began a two day, in-depth review.   Compared to recent years, the general operating fund increase is slight, less than two million dollars, but in terms of program and personnel cuts, the impact is deep.

The total proposed budget for 2012-2013 is about 727 million dollars. That’s six million dollars less than the current budget.

The district’s complete budget consists of four funds – General, Food Service, Debt Service and Grants.

The largest and the only one the board and administration has much control over is the General Fund, which is also the largest at 570-million dollars for next year. That’s about one-point-six million dollars more than the current fiscal year, but it’s far short of what’s needed to maintain current staff and program levels.

The municipal charter demands a balanced budget. In her budget introduction Monday morning, Superintendent Carol Comeau described how large that shortfall between predicted revenues and existing programs is.

She says the shortfall stems from a variety of causes – inflation, increased contract, labor, utility and supply costs, but especially flat state support and Anchorage Assembly revenue restrictions.

State revenues account for over 60 percent of the district’s general funding, local sources – primarily property taxes – approximately a third.

The superintendent says the 22-million dollar gap afflicts classrooms and impacts classrooms.

The administration wants to keep the 81 classroom teachers originally funded through a federal jobs bill that runs out this year. Comeau says that requires cutting other staff positions.

The Full Time Equivalency translates into more than 88 positions because some are part time.

Program eliminations include high school graduation coaches, middle school career guides and summer school.

Proposed reductions include elementary counselors, librarians and assistants, Special education, English language learner and gifted education services, curriculum and instructional support, maintenance, warehouse and custodial positions.

Last year the state legislature voted supplemental funding. Comeau says the district should not assume the same thing will happen again this year. And even if such funding appears, it would be after the district’s budget is approved. In that case, then the school board faces the task of deciding what to restore.

The board continues its department by department review of the administration’s 2012-2013 proposed budget through today. The budget discussion then moves to formal consideration with public testimony on February 1st and 9th. After the school board passes its budget, the Anchorage Assembly still must give final approval.

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