Packed Anchorage School Board meeting unveils revisions to fiscal year budget

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:46 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With Tuesday night’s Anchorage School Board Meeting centered on the Anchorage School District budget and a large amount of one-time funding, the room was packed with people who wanted to voice their opinions.

The board discussed how to set aside $37 million from the general fund for future use.

The board and the dozens of attendees debated on revisions to the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget and how to allocate one-time funds from the state that total around $100 million. Board members are still considering what should be cut to decrease a $68 million deficit while deciding what projects demand funding right now.

Jim Anderson, the school district’s chief financial officer, went over what the funding may be used for.

“The administration has talked to them about shovel-ready projects that are already ready for next summer, and there’s boilers, there’s roofs, there’s security vestibules for elementary schools, and that’s about $37 million,” Anderson said. “We’ve also discussed potentially holding some of it because we do have many difficult decisions.”

Many public testifiers spoke on what they feel should be funded for this upcoming year, including some youngsters. Among them, a group of students wearing “save our immersion program” shirts.

Zoe Parish and Claudia Zeman were part of this group and testified to keep the Language Immersion program.

“I know that you’re in a difficult position to cut funds for our school, but I ask you please don’t deprive people of learning another language,” Parish said.

“Learning Spanish is important to me because it helps me communicate with my Abuela, my grandma, who’s from Argentina, and my dad was the first person in my entire family born in America,” Zeman added.

Others wore stickers supporting various other causes. Some speakers, like parent Lara Nations, focused on construction projects for Inlet View Elementary.

“As many of you know, the current school building does not meet ASD’s own standards in multiple health and safety categories,” Nations said. “The building is over capacity by 45 students this year, and population growth is actually expected in this area.”

Some people, however, are still not convinced that this is the best way to use the allocated funds.

“For them, Inlet View is their number one priority, and I don’t fault them for valuing their school, but the board is looking at the broader — what’s required for the district — because there are other needs,” Anderson said.

Additionally, the district’s chief financial officer said a district sports analysis shows that soccer, hockey and gymnastics are the most expensive sports, something the board says it will be taking into consideration when choosing cuts.