With staff layoffs pending, Juneau Assembly approves school district budget

The Juneau School District building at Harborview Elementary School. (Photo by Bridget Dowd/ KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly unanimously approved the school district’s more than $85 million budget for next school year at a meeting Monday night. 

The move comes after months of turmoil and difficult decisions as the district faced a nearly $10 million deficit. The approved budget plan is funded via city, state and federal dollars. 

Superintendent Frank Hauser said it’s a relief to get to this point, but there’s still much work to be done. 

“We’ve got a budget in place now being able to move forward for (fiscal year) 25. And that’s just good to be able to say, ‘Okay, we’re focusing on, you know, the next steps,’” he said. 

The budget passed by the Juneau school board earlier this spring was built on the assumption that state education funding will not increase. Instead, it relies on cost-cutting measures like school consolidation and reducing the number of staff positions in the district.

Last month the Assembly approved giving $34 million in local funding to the district – the maximum amount allowed by state law. It also approved more than $3.5 million in additional funding for non-instructional programming.

The amount of state funding the district will receive is still up in the air. As this year’s legislative session nears an end, both the House and Senate have included $175 million in one-time funding for education in their proposed operating budgets. And Gov. Mike Dunleavy indicated potential support for the funding earlier this month. 

That potential boost in state funding could mean the district would be able to revise its budget to save more staff positions. The current plan will eliminate nearly 50 positions next year. The district has to send out layoff notices to teachers and staff by Wednesday. 

Hauser said it’s going to be a waiting game with the legislature and governor. 

“We’ll just have to wait and see. I mean, we just don’t know what the legislature is going to do. And if the governor is going to assign operating budget into law, and of course, if there’s gonna be any vetoes as part of that,” he said. 

Last year, Dunleavy vetoed half of a nearly identical increase in one-time education funding. 

He can do that because the state’s constitution allows the governor to veto or reduce budget line items after they’re approved by the legislature. Earlier this year, Dunleavy vetoed a larger bipartisan education bill that would have increased state funding for public schools on an ongoing basis.

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