Petersburg Pilot -

School budgeting faces more challenges with budget stalemate

 


The Petersburg School District’s financial future is still unknown, but it was looking bleak Monday evening.

Governor Bill Walker announced Monday afternoon that he had vetoed parts of the budget packet that were unfunded, leaving Alaska’s schools funded at only 28 percent.

The district’s budget for 2016 is at a “stopping point” until legislators finish the budget, Finance Director Karen Quitslund said, but fiscal year 2015 has already been impacted.

The school board approved 2015 budget revisions during a special meeting Monday evening at the high school’s library.

“We are actually going to try and end with the maximum amount of fund balance that we can because of the financial climate of the state,” Quitslund said.

But by state statute, the district can’t carry more than 10 percent of a fund balance forward from year to year.

There were decreases in areas such as tech services ($4,000), and certified special education staff ($7,000) that had to do with grant funded positions and tightening up variance, Quitslund said.

Special education saw the largest decrease at $80,000.

There were also increases in areas such as professional development and employee benefits with outside assistance.

Quitslund proposed forward funding two years of the district’s food service program since future funds are unstable, noting other districts have done it to prepare also. She got $120,000 approved for food service, and another $62,000 for bus transportation.

“The money that we’re going to receive from the state is not going to cover our current contract,” she said, as far as transferring those transportation funds go.

The board discussed ways of cutting costs, too.

Board member Jay Lister suggested looking at food costs with a loss of money. Activities Director Jaime Cabral cut in to say many high school students leave campus for lunch, which contributes.

Board member Mara Lutomski noted she’s seen younger students waste food at the salad bar because they just overestimate how much they can eat. Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter said it’s a staffing issue; there’s no one to monitor them.

Lister also suggested the district look at getting land and selling it for revenue each year with the comprehensive plan’s proposed land use tools.

Quitslund said there is revenue to be made and options out there.

Next year’s Average Daily Membership (ADM) has been projected at 442. Schools receive so much per student dependent upon a state formula, and Petersburg is looking at an increase in ADM. The district is also looking at a beginning fund of about $1 million.

But much of the budget is hypothetical at this point until the state budget is complete. The loss of more than 70 percent in funding would be devastating, Kludt-Painter said.

“I’m worried,” school board treasurer Cheryl File said. “If we don’t get that funding, where do you start cutting?”

Quitslund said the budgeting process has been a weekly, often daily one, and that she should know more in the next couple of weeks.

Adoption of the budget will likely occur at the next school board meeting.

 

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