The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Funding upped for schools next fiscal year

Council approves district request for additional money to avoid cuts

 


The Valdez City Council approved an additional funding request made by the Valdez City Schools board of education that will increase the city’s funding of education in 2012/13 by $246,387.

“The reason it’s that amount is because it is to the cap,” Dan Walker, vice-president of the board, said when the matter came up for consideration at Monday night’s regularly scheduled council meeting.

The cap is the term commonly used in Alaska to describe the maximum amount of funding municipalities are allowed to contribute to its school district budgets. Before council approved the additional funding, the city was slated to contribute $9,194,896 towards the district’s budget. This includes some $1.2 million in funding outside of the cap that pays for a variety of school programs such as student travel for extracurricular activities.

The district will also receive over $4 million in funding from state coffers. The total budget from all funding sources is $14,863,767 according to Amber Cockerham, the district’s business manager.

The board had spent the past month finessing the budget that began with a deficit of $574,000. The board made several changes including moving next year’s sixth grade class to Gilson Junior High, spent down its reserves – essentially its savings account – and other cost cutting measures before it asked the city for additional funding.

In reality, the additional funding request was a mere $4,000 less than the city funded education for this year. The city council approved an additional $250,000 to the district after its bill for employee insurance unexpectedly increased by that amount. The district included the higher premium in its original budget, which contributed to the original projected deficit.

“The school board has made every attempt to hold the line on spending over the past two years and therefore this increase represents less than inflationary growth during that time,” John Hozey, city manager, told the council in his written agenda statement.

The fact the city runs on a calendar year budget and the school district on a fiscal budget often adds a great deal of confusion to both elected bodies when considering budgetary matters.

The district is anticipating an enrollment of 665 students next year.

Valdez Star photo

Dan Walker, board vice-president, (left) and Amber Cockerham, district business manager, (right) answered questions Monday night before the Valdez City Council voted to approve additional education funding.

“That would be six students less than this year,” Walker told council.

The request for additional funding comes just weeks before the district’s 2012/13 budget is due to be submitted to the council for its approval.

“Their budget is due to us May 1,” John Hozey, city manager, told council. The council then must approve the budget for state approval by June 1.

Unlike other additional funding requests in recent years, the council approved the additional funding request with minimal antagonism towards district representatives, but did note that additional funding requests may not always be forthcoming.

“Money’s not going to keep coming forever,” Mayor Dave Cobb noted before the vote, saying all city funded operations needed to look for ways to save. “The bottom line is we have to go down, the city’s got to go down,” budget wise.

 

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