Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

District expects $490K budget hole


The Haines school board reviewed a “bleak” 2018 budget draft for the first time at a workshop Tuesday.

Next year’s budget appears to be about $487,000 in the hole, including a $370,000 anticipated reduction in state funding, said school board president Anne Marie Palmieri.

The district will save about $100,000 through the retirement of assistant principal and curriculum coordinator Cheryl Stickler, who will retire at the end of this school year.

“I have submitted a resignation letter with the intention of retiring,” Stickler said in an email. “At best, it’s bittersweet. What a great school this is! I adore these students, their families, and sincerely respect our staff and the heart they put into our students’ educations.”

Palmieri said the district is not planning on filling the position. “Cheryl’s assistant principal duties are going to be absorbed by current staff. The curriculum development part of her job will be taken over by (superintendent) Tony Habra,” Palmieri said.

The $370,000 drop in state funds is due to an estimated decrease in enrollment of 10 students (down to 252), one fewer intensive student, and a 25 percent reduction in the district’s “hold harmless” allocation, state funding that helps cover drops in enrollment.

The $487,000 projected deficit doesn’t include additional expenses resulting from renegotiation of employee contracts, set to start this spring, or any increase in the cost of insurance. Without cuts or additional income, the district could more than deplete its fund balance in writing next year’s budget, according to Habra.

“How do we do more with less?” Palmieri asked at Tuesday’s workshop.

“It may be our responsibility to raise this issue with the borough,” said board member Sara Chapell. The Haines Borough is expected to provide the school district with the same amount of money as it did last year, roughly $1.8 million.

In an interview Wednesday, Palmieri said the district is talking about its budget early this year at Habra’s urging. Habra has scheduled two meetings next week to get public comment on spending priorities in advance of the district’s formal budget process.

The identical meetings will be held 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Haines School on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

The school board will meet with Haines Borough Assembly members Feb. 8 to discuss budget and other items.

Staffing expenses represent 83 percent of the district’s budget, he said.

In response to the question, “What does it take to thrive in these challenging times?” that Habra posed to the board, members said Tuesday the district needs flexibility, innovation, perseverance, hope and a positive outlook to get through the next year.

But Palmieri said the district will continue to give students the best education possible and meet their needs.

Habra said he plans to present a developed budget to the board for consideration in late March, with a final budget presentation in late April.


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