School board tackles more budget cuts
The Nome Public Schools Board of Education met for a regular session on Tuesday, March 21 in the Nome Elementary School Library. The most heated topic on the list was that of the third draft budget, which was presented to the board on Tuesday.
Besides some sharp cuts and the fact that it was already un-balanced – a nearly $400,000 reduction will still have to occur before the final draft – word out of Juneau is that there will be even more belt-tightening to come. As of now, the draft proposes to cut all non-essential contracted services, utilities, and a list of classified and certified staff.
In the draft presented in the meeting, the classified staffing cuts are proposed as the following: four full time instructional aides and one FT paraprofessional aide at the elementary school, one FT behavior specialist at NBHS, one FT instructional aide at the Nome Youth Facility and one FT Human Resources Manager.
The certified staffing cuts are proposed as follows: one FT librarian, one FT physical education teacher at NBHS, and one FT PE teacher at the elementary school.
One of several major factors in how much revenue the school will have in FY2018 will depend on the elimination of the Nome Youth Facility. If the legislature chooses to eliminate funding for the Youth Facility, then the school district will need to prepare for an even larger budget cut.
While eliminating the Youth Facility may sound like a way to reduce expenditures, Superintendent Shawn Arnold explained that the loss of those students would actually increase expenditures, because the elimination of the Youth Facility reduces the amount of funding that is awarded to the school. For example, the district could lose $800,000 from its $2.8 million technology grant, placing it in an even large deficit than it is now.
The district finance committee, comprised of several NPS staff members, teachers, advisors and parents, will meet a few more times before the draft is finalized and budget decisions are made. On Monday, April 3, a public meeting for parents and community members will be held to discuss the budget, planned to happen right before the April 3 meeting with the city council.
The City of Nome has yet to decide if they will increase the amount of money given to the school district for FY18. According to Superintendent Arnold, the Nome school district is one of the lowest city-funded districts in the state. Arnold said that the city currently contributes just over $2 million to NPS, while the maximum contribution allowed is $3.25 million.
There was talk about closing the swimming pool as a possible budget reduction solution. The school currently pays the cost to maintain the swimming pool, which is used not only by students, but the entire community. Board member Jennifer Reader pointed out that while the pool is a city function, the students have to pay for it. Reader said she didn’t want to look at the list of budgets cuts and see all the people on this list, and not a swimming pool. Reader said that it is “not fair to our students, or our staff” – to have a swimming pool but not a job.
During the meeting, action items including the board policy and the NJUS bulk fuel purchase were approved. Also on the action items list was to approve membership in the Coalition for Education Equity of Alaska. The board approved joining the organization, formerly known at CEACC, which according to their website, “is the only non-profit organization in Alaska focused on at-risk students and struggling schools.”
Superintendent Arnold explained to the board that if things get worse with budget cuts, this organization might be able to bring legal action against state legislature and petition for more funding or even seek a settlement. The board agreed unanimously to join the coalition, seeing the opportunity as an investment in the district’s future.
As for other school news, several students at Nome Public Schools were recognized for their achievements. Sierra Tucker was presented with the Spirit of Youth Award, which according to program “highlights dedicated young people and unsung heroes from around Alaska.” Tucker was one of only sixteen students across the state to be honored for this award.
Students of the month at Nome-Beltz Junior/Senior High School were senior high student Cody Farris and junior high student Dennis Eningowuk. Students of the month at Anvil City Science Academy were recognized as: Jenae Matson for January and Sarah Wade for February. Nome Elementary School teacher Julie Fabignon-Cross was recognized as teacher of the month.
The board will reconvene for a work session on March 28, followed by a regular meeting on April 11, where the final budget draft will be presented. The deadline for the final draft of the FY18 budget is April 18.
Superintendent Arnold encouraged parents to reach out to the district with their budget concerns, and to attend the public meeting on April 3 as well as the Nome Common Council meeting on the same day.