Haines School

Haines School

The Haines School Board looked at a first draft of the Fiscal Year 2016 school district budget Tuesday night. At the workshop, board members brainstormed how to make up for a projected $283,000 deficit with the least painful cuts possible.

The budget Superintendent Ginger Jewell presented to school board members is preliminary. It’s the first stab at figuring out how much money the district will get next year and how to spend it.

Jewell says revenue is expected to be lower. The Haines Borough contribution to the school district in past years has been 84 percent of the maximum amount. This year, Borough Manager David Sosa has said he plans to cut that by four percent – which would amount to about $50,000 less money for the district.

(Update: Haines Borough Manager David Sosa is proposing to cut funding to the schools by $37,000 in the FY 16 borough budget.)

Jewell also predicts a lower student count – 252 – compared to this year’s enrollment, which is 268. That means less money from the state, based on the per-student allocation.

Here are the big numbers: the district’s estimated expenditures total about $4,589,000. The total predicted revenue is $4,306,000.

“That leaves us with a $282,991 pot we need to make up,” Jewell said. “‘Cause that is how much we are over. We have more expense than we do revenue at this moment in time.”

Jewell walked the school board through all of the predicted expenses for next year. Then, they talked about what could be cut. Jewell had some suggestions.

“And this was just to show you items that could be cut that have the least effect on children,” Jewell said.

One item that could be cut is professional development travel. If no staff traveled to conferences or trainings next year, the district could save about $48,000.

Jewell also suggested doing something the district hasn’t done before: asking teachers whose spouse has insurance that covers them to opt-out of school district insurance. That could save the district about $17,000 per person.

“I think, in good faith, I think we have to at least ask. If they slam the door in our face, they slam the door in our face,” Jewell said.

Another insurance-related suggestion: Jewell said right now the district reimburses each employee $400 of their insurance deductible. If the district were to lower that reimbursement, it could add up to significant savings. That’s something employees won’t like, Jewell said.

“But at some point I believe that people have to understand that either everybody takes 3,4, 500 dollars [cut] or somebody loses a job,” Jewell said. “We’re down to those kind of choices.”

Those things would also have to be agreed on in negotiations with teachers. Some school board members doubted they would agree.

There were a few cuts the school board agreed to include in the next draft of the budget: Paraprofessional working days would be reduced. For example, paras wouldn’t come to work on teacher inservice days. Professional travel funds would be cut by 50 percent. The district could wait on replacing computers. And the school could be completely closed over some holidays.

All those cuts only partially make up for the $283,000 deficit.

At the end of the meeting, the board decided they wanted to see another budget with a slightly higher student count. That’s because, in the past five years, the district has underestimated enrollment in budget predictions. And with more students, comes more state money.

The next budget workshop is April 15th at 7 p.m. The meetings are open to the public.