Anchorage School District faces another budget gap

ASD, Anchorage School DistrictAs the legislature tries to develop a viable solution to Alaska’s budget woes, school districts are exploring options to deal with flat state funding anticipated during the next fiscal year.

Though the level of funding is likely to be similar to the previous year, rising annual costs mean the Anchorage School District is facing a possible shortfall of about $15 million.

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ASD Superintendent Deena Paramo said it will be difficult to balance the budget without affecting employees.

“I don’t look to have any type of layoffs; we’re really looking at our attrition and being able to reorganize and those folks that want to work for ASD, we would want to keep them working for our organization, but we might be having different jobs for folks,” Paramo said.

Among the drivers for finding efficiencies within the district is the establishment of a Pupil to Teacher Ratio — which is the number of staff members, not limited to teachers, assigned per student.

“Whether that’s principals, counselors, safety officers, we did do that for nurses, but we’re looking at all those additional functions in a school, whether it’s reading specialists, career tech,” Paramo said. “And we didn’t have our ratios articulated necessarily for those other subjects and other supports.”

ASD is also planning on presenting a $58.5 million bond package to Anchorage voters in April.

Paramo said the package includes money to replace out-of-date heating and ventilation systems and to make structural and seismic improvements to some buildings.

“And then finally eight roofs, so only the roofs that actually have water coming in and through the ceilings where we have buckets are the schools targeted, there are eight of them,” Paramo said. “It’s not to build into the future which I would love to do — create 21st century schools and learning and learning spaces — but it is simply taking care of our present infrastructure.”

Paramo said the district and Anchorage School Board will engage in more detail-oriented budget discussions next month.

Governor Bill Walker’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018, allocates more than $1.27 billion in unrestricted and designated general funds to education.

Of that money, ASD would receive about $330 million — or a little more than a quarter of the the state’s education budget.

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