Mat-Su Borough School District passes preliminary budget, but still a long road ahead

Published: Mar. 20, 2019 at 10:15 PM AKDT
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The Mat-Su Borough School District passed a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2020 at their regular board meeting Wednesday evening, but it will almost certainly change as the legislature works to finalize its budget.

Superintendent Monica Goyette says the district already has a high teacher to pupil ratio, but under the proposed budget classroom sizes could increase by six students per class. Grades 6 – 8 could see a ratio of 35 students per teacher, and 38 students per teacher for grades 9-12.

”We just did a budget survey, and in our community, class size is the number one priority,” Goyette said. “So I want to make sure that our delegation, that all senators and house representatives are aware of what those impacts are going to look like in reality.”

So far, Goyette has made two trips to Juneau to work with the delegation – she also had a sit-down with Gov. Dunleavy to talk about how his proposed budget would impact Mat-Su schools.

“I think the governor’s very proud of the Mat-Su Borough School District, and the progress that we’ve made,” Goyette said. “And we hope that as we move through this process, that our community will really come forward and support education.”

Goyette says creating a budget around the governor’s proposed budget has been one of her biggest challenges in her 20 years with the district.

"It’s the first time there's been a proposal of this magnitude,” Goyette said. “This is a 25 percent reduction to education. It's very challenging to prepare for such drastic reductions."

The preliminary budget passed on Wednesday relies on a $6.3 million tax levy on the full and true value of taxable real and personal property, and a Borough contribution of around $60.6 million. But this resolution does little to allay questions for board members who know the proposed cuts would take a big toll on area schools.

"I don't see this budget coming together from Juneau anytime soon. It's very uncertain this year,” board member Ole Larson said. “When it comes to those major cuts, if that happens, this board really needs to do their due diligence and seriously look at all the alternatives.”

This budget will likely change once the district's revenue picture comes into focus. When asked how many trips she plans to take to Juneau to work with the legislature, Superintendent Goyette responded, “As many as it takes to get us through the session.”

Wednesday was the last time the school board will meet before their final budget is due to the Mat-Su Assembly on April 1.