Anchorage School District budget deficit drops to $48M

The updated budget deficit comes after a review that looked at the district’s expenditures and projections for Fiscal Year 2024
The Anchorage School Board held a work session to look at all options for decreasing the budget deficit.
Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 11:14 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Time is running out for the Anchorage School Board as they are faced with making decisions that will impact the lives of students, parents and teachers across Anchorage.

After looking over the Anchorage School District’s projections for revenue and expenditures for Fiscal Year 2024, the projected budget deficit has gone from around $68 million to an estimated $48.2 million.

“So, when we look at the operational dollars in the cost savings, it dropped the budget deficit from about $67 to 68 million to closer to $60 million,” said district Chief Financial Officer Jim Anderson. “When you add the $3 million additional in revenue because we had more students and when you add $9 million in federal relief dollars that we were unable to spend, it drops our starting deficit for building the budget to $48 million dollars.”

The changes to the initial projected deficit include increased overall FY23 revenue, reduced overall FY23 expenses, and increased ESSER funds (federal relief dollars) available for FY24.

After determining the new ASD budget deficit to be closer to $48 million than the previously expected $68 million, the school board has been working with those numbers to decide what to keep and what to cut in the school district.

On Saturday, a workshop was held for the Anchorage School Board members to look at all of the possible options in regard to budget cuts. According to district Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt, the meeting was intended to be a launching point that will create dialogue among the team and allow all board members to ask questions.

“Today is our opportunity to look at all the options on the table. In front of you is a chart you can use to explore a variety of options. We’ve attempted to distinguish between those actions that are short term in nature and those that would result in a long-term impact on the district’s expenditures,” Bryantt said.

The board is taking into consideration different options like reducing the fund balance, moving sixth grade into middle school, and still looking into possibly closing schools, among other things. The financial team says they made a lot of progress in regard to agreement when laying all of the options on the table.

“This is probably the most board guidance we’ve gotten at this level in probably, since I’ve been here in seven years, and I think there’s a consensus around the big things building,” Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said.

School Board President Margo Bellamy ended the work session by saying although they did not get a lot of long-term work done, she is cautiously hopeful that they will get near what they need to balance the budget.

“What we’ve had the opportunity to discuss is all extremely important conversation to determine that path forward to give the board, administration, and the community time to plan not just for this budget but for future budgets,” said an official at the work session.

The possibility of six schools closing is still on the table, which is a big part of making these decisions as board members take into account the amount of money they need to get that deficit down to zero, with many board members agreeing on some of their early priorities, while still hoping that the legislature will increase funding for education eventually.

Saturday’s work session did not bring any finalized decisions on any budget recommendations announced over the past several months.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19, 2022.