After months of waiting, the Haines Borough School district has received a one time funding boost passed by the state legislature last year. The funds were allocated for the school’s 2019 budget, but were delayed when Governor Mike Dunleavy proposed to redirect them towards other programs.
In May of 2018, state legislators approved a one-time 20 million dollar increase in funding for Alaska’s school districts. This provided the Haines School with an extra boost of about $40,000, roughly one percent of the school’s overall budget. The Skagway School was allocated just over $20,000 dollars.
But the Dunleavy Administration held that funding when the governor proposed to remove it from the 2019 budget. Haines Borough School District Superintendent Roy Getchell explains.
“We were told in January that it would be here in January. It wasn’t too long after getting word that it was coming in January that it was held. It was just the timing was interesting in how that was done. This money had been spent by districts. You’ve already budgeted for that you’ve made your expense expectations and forecasts based on that. So it was already spent.”
Getchell says that the funding had been slated for paying staff.
School administrators from districts across the state criticized the governor for proposing to take back money that had been promised. The state’s budget director, Donna Arduin, defended the proposed cut, saying that school districts should not spend money that has not arrived yet.
For months it was unclear whether the state would send the allocated funds, but on Tuesday, Getchell says the school received a check for $49,000 from the state, more than they had originally expected.
“Now as long as it comes during the fiscal year the state has done their part. We appreciate them following through on their word. They did make it happen before the end of the fiscal year. Hopefully, this is the beginning of unsticking the logjam that’s been going on with our budget for the last several months,” Getchell says.
The question of funding for 2020 is still unresolved.
Last year, lawmakers voted to fund the state’s public schools in 2020 with no cuts and a $30 million bonus payment. The idea was to eliminate budget uncertainty for school districts by agreeing to funding in advance. The Dunleavy administration argues that making a funding decision so far in advance disrupts the state’s budget process and violates the constitution.
Now the legislature is considering a lawsuit to force the governor to uphold the 2020 funding decision from last year.