Anchorage School Board considers all options for diminishing budgets

The Anchorage School Board is developing a plan for drastic budget cuts in the years ahead. They discussed some of the options with the Anchorage Assembly during a joint meeting on Friday morning.

The School Board knows that at current funding levels, they’ll have to cut more than 200 positions each year for the next three years.

School Board member Natasha Von Imhoff says they are working on a plan to provide a quality education under the financial constraints. Part of the plan is to learn from the best practices of schools in the district that are succeeding, like Ursa Minor and Firelake, and apply them to other schools.

She says they are also considering, but have not decided on, more drastic long-term options, like consolidating schools into larger buildings.

“It is interesting that financially only, just isolating that, you can experience savings if students are consolidated into a larger school. You save in the facilities maintenance fees, utilities, and staffing for those schools that are closed.”

Von Imhoff says short-term costs would be high, but long-term costs could be greatly reduced. They might also have to cut some programs.

She stresses that the conversation is just beginning and no decisions have been made about the operating budget.

The School Board did pass their proposal for next year’s school bond. If the Assembly passes the measure, they will ask voters to approve a $59 million dollar school bond. ASD Chief Operating Officer Mike Abbott says most of the money will go toward building upgrades for four elementary schools.

“At a couple of them, because of the way they were built originally and the way they’ve been modified since, they don’t currently meet our expectations for what an elementary school should be. So either some of the rooms are the wrong size or the wrong configuration or in some cases they just don’t have some of the spaces we now expect an elementary school to have.”

Abbott says a new $59 million dollar bond would not increase the community’s bond debt. He says the community’s bond debt per capita is actually decreasing. The state will reimburse the district for 60 to 70 percent of the money spent on facility upgrades.