April 7, 2011 |

School board reviews draft budget

    School superintendent Michael Byer offered his first draft budget to the Haines Borough School District Tuesday.

    The $5.6 million spending plan Byer called “a first blush” and “moving target” includes a 3 percent increase in the borough’s contribution to the school general fund and an overall increase in spending of $230,000. It does not include money for a new teachers’ contract, currently under negotiation.

    Haines Borough manager Mark Earnest has penciled in the 3 percent school funding increase to the borough budget, but the assembly has not yet addressed school funding.

    Byer’s plan takes $209,000 from the district’s $529,000 unappropriated fund balance, reducing it to $320,000, a number he called “healthy.”

    With the approval of the school board, Byer is estimating district enrollment next year at 289 students, compared to 310 that enrolled last fall.  

    “We’re still conservative in our estimates there. If our numbers were to stay up, that would increase our general fund balance. In this climate, that would be good,” Byer said.

    An increase in costs of regular instruction to $2.18 million from $2.09 million is due to step increases on the school salary chart and a new position that aims to track and address reading skills among students entering the school.

    A $53,000 increase for special education will cover more students who require the help of school aides, Byer said.

    Student activities costs will increase $7,100 to $150,000, in part to pay for a new assistant coach for the girls’ basketball team. Turnout for the sport recently increased, he said.

    The district is budgeting to spend $306,000 for heating fuel and electricity next year, up from $292,000 in the current year. “We may have to amplify these, depending on what happens,” Byer said.

    Byer and school board members expressed guarded optimism this week that the Alaska Legislature would increase its per-student allocation for school funding.

    If the district does not receive more money, it may look to pay for a new teachers’ contract with fund balance money, Byer said.