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Juno leaders begin talks on $4.7 million school district deficit

Juno leaders begin talks on .7 million school district deficit
Snow piles up in front of the empty Juneau School District offices on Glacier Avenue in Juneau, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Bridget Dowd / KTOO)

Juneau School District leaders are gearing up for major budget decisions over the next two years as enrollment declines and key funding sources are exhausted.

At a public budget forum Thursday, Administrative Services Director Cassie Olin said the district faces a $4.7 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.

$30 increase base student allocation Increases state funding for the district by $243,000, according to Superintendent Bridget Weiss. But it’s not enough to keep the district out of deficit as costs rise and enrollment falls.

The district has not yet felt the full financial impact 11% enrollment drop From 2020 onwards. That’s because the state has a hold harmless provision, which helps districts that have lost students reduce the amount of state funding they receive gradually over the course of three years, rather than immediately.

According to Olin, that provision gave the district an additional $2.1 million in state funding this year. The next year, that money is gone.

Elementary, middle and high school principals shared their budget priorities with district leaders at Thursday’s forum. They included avoiding increasing class sizes and retaining reading specialists and counselors.

The district will be in a similar position next year, when one-time Covid relief from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund runs out. Weiss said the district has an estimated $1.6 million in ESSER funds to spend the next school year.

“So there’s another consideration as we look down the road to FY25 and how are we going to manage that stair step from ESSER, just like we’re managing the stair step away from harmless this year,” he Said.

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District and city leaders began discussing long-term financial plans for the district at a meeting Friday. Enrollment Estimate show that in 2023 the district is expected to have 1,100 fewer students than it does now.

City Manager Rory Watt said, “It’s troubling, and it’s not a demographic trend that any of us want, but I think the data supports it.”

That data includes statewide trends that show Alaska’s population is getting older, especially in the southeast, young people are leaving the state, and those who are staying having fewer children,

Watt said, “The change in projections is really just going to come from our belief that people are going to be moving to Juneau and moving to the area and our population is going to grow, and I don’t think anybody is really going to change that to any significant degree.” is predicting.” ,

Weiss said Proposed $1,000 Increase The basis for student allocation offered “a glimmer of hope” for future years.

Meanwhile, the Juneau School Board must present a balanced budget by March. It will go before the Juno Assembly for final approval in May.

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