Anchorage School Board passes preliminary $768M budget

Image from the Anchorage School District
Image from the Anchorage School District

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The Anchorage School Board passed the district’s preliminary budget on Thursday evening, but it could still change depending on state funding.

The proposed $768.4 million budget for the 2016-2017 school year is slightly smaller than this year’s budget. It increases the pupil-teacher ratio by one student in every grade level, and cuts about 52 full-time teaching positions and three assistant principals.

“We have always prioritized our classroom and know that instruction and building leadership are the two areas we need to preserve… because that’s going to have the greatest impact on student performance,” explained School Board President Kameron Perez-Verdia. “Unfortunately we’ve been put in a position over the last few years where our administration and our district as a whole has continuously been reduced. And it’s making it harder and harder to consolidate and find areas to [continue to] reduce.”

The budget does include more special education teachers and paraprofessionals to meet a rising need.

Most of the details were nailed down during Tuesday night’s meeting, but the vote was delayed until Thursday so board members had a chance to fully review the proposal and it’s amendments. The preliminary budget passed 5-to-0 with two members absent. But Perez-Verdia says this isn’t the end of the discussion because ultimately, the budget depends on negotiations in Juneau.

“Education is one of the largest areas of spending in our state, and so it’s likely they’re going to recommend further cuts.” He said he hopes the Legislature will not change the $50 increase to the Base Student Allocation so the district will not have to change their budget. “But most of us think we’re likely to see something different than we have now.”

The budget is based on a $332.2 million contribution from the state. If state funding is decreased, the allowable local match will also decrease.