School Board Weighs $8 Million Cut in next Year's Budget

By  | 

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board began the long journey of reviewing the proposed budget for the next school year at last night's board meeting.
The suggested amount totals just over $232 million dollars, which is 3.3% less than the district's budget last year.
Julia Laude brings us the board's discussion.

The 2018-2019 proposed budget includes reductions to the general operating fund totaling almost $8.2 million.
According to the District's Proposed Budget Summary, which can be found online, nearly 86% of the district's budget is being used to pay for salaries and benefits for employees.
But for some, they will never see these benefits.

Tana Martin; Librarian - Tanana Middle School>>"My name is Tana Martin and I am proud to be the librarian at Tanana Middle. When the phone rings and a teacher calls for help with a projector or a substitute needs assistance pulling up a URL or opening a Chrome book cart, with no library assistant, the librarian can't drop everything and provide immediate help."

Cindy Apodaca; Librarian - West Valley High School>>"I love, love, love, love my job. The problem is my program is going to be gutted. The budget right now cuts out every library assistant on the secondary level and what is not reflected there is that last year you took out one assistant so this year we've had two people doing the work of three."

In Cindy Apodaca's library students utilized library services more than 111,000 times.
In 2016 the district had roughly 50 library assistants in elementary and secondary schools and in the newly proposed budget, that number could be decreased to 20.
And if these library aides are lost, Superintendent Karen Gaborik says there may not be someone there to pick up the load.

Karen Gaborik; Superintendent of Schools>>"Again you have a reduced number of people to be in the library and they need lunch breaks and things so some of that would just be a reduction of services in terms of student access to the library and then schools would just have to look at what services they still can provide and what services they can't."

But it's not just library assistants who are in a position to be worried.
Teachers, custodians, after-school activities coordinators, and a variety of other support staff are at risk of losing their jobs.
Board President Heidi Haas says deciding on cuts is not an easy job.

Heidi Haas; School Board President>>"Every reduction that we make is going to impact students. We're at this point now where there is no fat, there are no low hanging fruits. Where we're at now is scary."

The state is expected to give roughly a million dollars less to local schools than last year.
The board will hold a more in-depth work session on February 19th to talk about the budget.
By March 22nd, the board needs to approve its budget and send it to the borough in April.