School District, School Board discuss budget deficit over $67M with Anchorage Assembly
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District is working towards presenting a balanced budget for the upcoming year as district representatives met with the Anchorage School Board and Anchorage Assembly on Friday during a joint meeting.
Most of the discussion surrounded the district administration’s $67.09 million dollar budget deficit and how the available federal funding of $91 million will be spent. The district points to a drop in revenue and increased expenses for the deficit.
“This slide really just shows our budget deficit, the $20.4 million dollar drop in revenue, and then the approximately $47 million dollar increase in expense,” ASD Senior Director of Management and Budget Andy Ratliff explaining the budget deficit.
Chief Financial Officer for the district James Anderson said the projected loss in revenue stems from less students coming back than they had projected last January and February when they were crafting the budget for this year. He also pointed out that the state hadn’t adjusted its school spending formula during the last legislative session, adding to projected revenue losses.
“Why do we continue to spend more when we have fewer students? And, and If the answer is we’re projecting wrong, that’s not a very satisfying answer,” Assembly member Kameron-Perez Verdia asked the district.
The school district said the COVID-19 pandemic created unique circumstances when it projected enrollment for the 2021 school year. Anderson said they kept that confidence through the summer when they held summer school and didn’t have to close down a school.
“We couldn’t have foreseen the delta variant and the choices that families had to make as to whether they were comfortable in allowing their kids to go to a school building,” Anderson said. “Part of it is in the last two years there has been so many ups and downs that would have been impossible to project with any metric.”
Superintendent Deena Bishop stressed the fact that the district will have to make difficult decisions in the coming months with regard to the budget.
“We’ve got to get serious about this because we can’t continue to keep spending without changes in revenue,” Bishop said.
The district does have $91 million dollars at its disposal through ARP Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funds that have to be spent by Sept. 30, 2024. Anderson said they will plan their available federal funding at the same time they present a budget to the school board in February. He said the district has prioritized the funds into four different areas: facilities, learning loss, reducing class size and board goal initiatives.
“So we do see at least trying to stretch this money as far as possible,” Anderson said.
Every year the district begins its budget talks for the upcoming fiscal year in December, hears public comments in January, presents a budget to the school board in February, and then the Assembly for approval in March.
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