District wants more borough help
Citing district figures that show the Haines Borough’s contribution to local schools is at 2009 levels, members of the school board at a Tuesday budget workshop said they’ll seek an additional $176,496 for the coming year.
They said they’ll be making their pitch in advance of next Tuesday’s assembly meeting where members are scheduled to address the school budget.
Board members said the district has cut $375,000 in expenditures and saved money by closing Mosquito Lake School and by combining administrative positions.
Speaking for conserving the board’s “political capital” with the borough assembly, president Anne Marie Palmieri cautioned against the request. “Just from sitting in that meeting last week and listening to (the assembly) haggle over $32,000 for nonprofits, and zeroing that out, do we really want to go to the mat on this? Do we want that fight?”
But other members, including Brenda Josephson and Brian Clay, said static funding from the borough doesn’t recognize the increased cost of living or step increases in pay for workers. “They’re not funding us to cover the cost of living and they haven’t done that in years,” Clay said. He called the requested increase “the cost of doing business.”
The additional funds would bring the borough’s contribution to the district’s general fund to $1.73 million. The money would fund a new math teacher in junior high and allow the district to meet its $5.19 million budget for the coming year without eating into its $523,820 general fund balance. The budget is based on a projected enrollment of 241 students, a drop of 30 students from the current year’s total.
With the request, the borough’s contribution to schools would be $70,000 less than the maximum contribution for instructional funding allowed by state law.
Member Josephson said the district should seek the maximum contribution, taking aim at borough spending for things like a sauna. “We shouldn’t have the borough buying country club things when they’re not fully funding the school.”
At Tuesday’s budget workshop, members heard that insurance rates will not increase for the coming year and the Alaska Legislature’s school funding bill will bring about $200,000 more in foundation funding than previously expected.
Members expressed hope that the borough’s pellet-heat project would reduce district heating bills, which include $135,000 annually in heating oil.
Other district expenses in the latest budget draft include $1.35 million in teacher salaries, $678,000 for insurance, $145,000 for electricity and $40,000 for garbage removal.
Clay asked if the district couldn’t reduce its trash bill. District secretary Ashley Sage said several steps already have been taken. “We’ve cut down. We recycle everything we can. We take the dumpsters out during Christmas holidays and summer.”
Clay suggested the district haul its own garbage rather than pay for pick-up. “It seems like a lot (of expense to me). I think we need to take a look at that.”
District reserves include $122,400 in the pupil transportation fund balance and $285,000 in the facilities and equipment fund balance. In addition to instructional funding, the borough annually gives the district $210,000 for non-educational items including Community Education, hot lunch, plowing and student activities.
The district also brings in about $400,000 annually in grant revenue, outside of its general fund budget.