The Haines School District is facing a significant budget deficit in the coming year and could use up its entire savings soon. Superintendent Tony Habra is planning a series of community meetings to talk about where the school is now and where it’s headed.
“They need to know what’s going on. If they want to know I want to make sure they have the opportunity to hear about it,” says Superintendent Habra.
He shared his planned state of the district address with the school board at their latest meeting.
Habra is finishing up his first year as superintendent of the Haines School District.
“I’m still new to the community and I’m still seeking input from all kinds of different places. But this is a chance, if you have questions to be able to ask them. But also, and just as importantly to sit down and here where we’re headed and what we’ve done this year,” says Habra.
His address will highlight a three-year plan that he established when he took on the job. That involves exploration, consolidation, and innovation.
Ultimately it’s plan, do, check, act, model,” says Habra. “You plan out what you’re going to do which is what I’ve spent this year – you try to implement it after you’ve had some discussion about it. You act to put it into place, see what’s worked and doesn’t work. You check on that, and then you do the whole thing over again.”
Habra also plans to talk about how he’s met priorities identified by the school board when he was hired. He’ll also talk about meeting goals set out in the strategic plan.
One of the priorities set by the board involves the use of technology as a classroom tool. Habra says he’s found the district is doing that well. He’s not planning any major technology expansions but wants to keep technology use at the level it is now.
That means maintaining a fleet of computers and iPads for students use as the tools wear and age over time.
At a meeting this week, the school board approved an expense of up to $55,000 for new tech equipment in the coming year.
“This is one of those things that needs to happen every year, needs to be built into the budget,” says Habra. “So it’s a matter of, like every situation, it’s a question between what’s best for kids and what’s fiscally responsible. And in this case we need these because it’s what’s best for kids.”
A few board members questioned whether the school has the money to make a significant purchase like this. The district is facing a $250,000 deficit in the coming year and is downsizing by three staff members to save money.
Board member Lisa Schwartz raised concerns about the long-term financial situation.
“So when we’re looking at the bigger picture of the budget, it was cut $350,000 and we have these positions that weren’t refilled,” said Schwartz. “And so when we’re fast-forwarding to another year at this time, that’s when things are going to look a lot more serious with the budget.”
Habra said right now there is enough money in the general fund to cover the cost. If that changes as the administration continues to refine the budget, they could instead turn to the 880 fund, a capital improvements account.
Habra says student computers usually last 4-5 years and are only replaced when it is absolutely necessary.
“The technology kind of follows the student so the same student might have the same piece of equipment for several years and then eventually it wears out and you have to rotate in new pieces of equipment to maintain that they don’t get too old, that they’re not breaking,” says Habra.
Habra’s three state of the district addresses are scheduled for the end of April. He’ll give presentations at the public library April 25 and 27. Habra will also speak at a chamber of commerce lunch on April 28.