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School Budget outlook bleak

by Lorien Nettleton ~ February 29th, 2012

After several weeks of Open House Presentations and Work Sessions with the School Board, The Mat Su Borough School District’s preliminary budget for 2012-2013 is nearly ready to head to the Borough Assembly. The School District’s financial projections paint a bleak picture, KTNA’s Lorien Nettleton has more:

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More teaching positions at Talkeetna Elementary, Su Valley High, and Trapper Creek could be cut next year, based on the Mat Su Borough School District’s financial projections.

The District’s Chief Business Official, Ken Forrest says the school district will be asking the borough to make an investment in the schools budget to keep things from getting worse.

The district has already reduced 125 positions and cut instructional programs by 6% last year, and Forrest says a one-time federal funding kept it from being worse than it was. Several years of increasing costs without an increase in revenues has put Forrest in the position of finding ways to keep the district running with a balanced budget.

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The Alaska State Legislature is considering a bill to increase the base student allocation for 3 years, which Forrest says would go part-way to solving the districts financial woes, but even if Senate Bill 171 passes the legislature, the increase of 125 dollars per student would still force the Borough to free up 6 and a half million dollars by cutting jobs. The worse-case scenario would eliminate a lot more.

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The Mat Su Borough School District has had the highest increase of students in the state, and Forrest says the Borough’s per-student funding trails both Anchorage and Fairbanks. If the Borough increased funding to the level of either of those school districts, they would be able to maintain their current number of teachers and programs.

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The Talkeetna Elementary Parent-Teacher Association is asking parents to share their thoughts on school funding with the Assembly. PTA member Charlie Loeb says there’s a fear among parents that another lost position will affect the quality of the children’s education.

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In their letter to parents, the PTA has asked for an increase of funding, as well as to ask for a multi-year budget to allow the schools to better predict their budgets during planning.

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The School District will present their budget outlook and requests to the Assembly at a joint meeting on March 20th.

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