The Haines School District is facing a quarter million dollar deficit in a $4.6 million budget. And that doesn’t include some potential major changes – like state cuts to education and possible salary raises from teacher negotiations.
At a Thursday workshop, Business Manager Judy Erekson walked the board through the FY16 budget line-by-line. At the end of it, school board president Anne Marie Palmieri had this to say:
“I think we should look at cutting something — some things — out of this budget.”
School board members and administrators kept saying there’s not a lot of “fluff” in the budget. Superintendent Ginger Jewell said they’ve worked to cut expenses about half a million. But there is still a $260,000 shortfall. That deficit could grow even more.
Board members and administrators agreed: either this year or the next, personnel will need to be cut.
“Our budget’s in poor shape, we know that cuts have to come,” said Principal Cheryl Stickler. “And I’m looking through this budget and I’m seeing personnel. We don’t have fluffy stuff in here.”
The school district does have a reserve that could cover at least some of the shortfall. $671,000 in cost savings from past years have been carried over. Several board members and administrators favor using some of the fund balance before cutting staff.
“Rather than cutting personnel at this moment in time, couldn’t we dip into reserves and take it as a little bit of a stop-gap year?” asked Dean of Students Rene Martin.
Jewell said using reserve funds is a temporary fix to a bleak budget reality.
“That is a one-year band-aid on open heart surgery.”
Palmieri said some of the fund balance will definitely be used this year. The question is how much.
“We want to make sure that the budget we have is sustainable,” she said. “If we use 60 percent of the fund balance this year, we’re in a situation next year of having to make drastic cuts and not having any cushion.”
There are still a lot of things that could change the budget picture. One, state funding is in flux. Two, the borough is receiving about $120,000 in federal Secure Rural Schools money. Borough Manager Dave Sosa says he will propose giving about $40,000 of that to the school district. Three, staff salaries are still in negotiations. Four, the board hasn’t decided whether to spend money on the technology initiative Engaging the Future.
When Palmieri asked school board members if they had any more ideas about areas to cut expenses, there was silence. So, she directed the board’s finance committee to comb through the budget and come up with some potential cuts.
The group also agreed they couldn’t decide anything for good until the state finalizes its budget.