The music department is the first to feel the effects of the Haines School District’s shrinking budget for next year. One teaching position has already been eliminated to save money.

According to Superintendent Tony Habra, Jason Muccino, the music teacher for grades 5-12, resigned. Muccino has been at the school two years. Habra says that position has been eliminated to save money in the budget.

Because of declining enrollment, the school is expected to see decreased state funding in the coming year. They’re anticipating about a $364,000 budget shortfall in FY18.

How the loss of Muccino’s position will affect the school’s music program is a little vague at this point. What is clear is that music education at the Haines School is not going away. Habra says the program is expected to remain intact, as it is right now.

“This instruction is super important to us,” says Habra. “Music, fine arts, career and tech ed, they are very important to both the district and the community and we’re going to do anything we can to maintain them as is.”

Habra says the music teacher position will be filled internally. That means they won’t be hiring a new teacher to take on the role. That’s how they’ll save money. But with one less teacher, Habra says they may have to shuffle around some other classes to make it work.

“We’ll be collapsing some classes,” says Habra. “We might remove a class here. We might make a class only available every other year. It just depends. We have some classes that may not fill up at the high school level. So maybe that class is only offered every other year instead of every year.”

Habra did not say what classes or what teachers may step into the music role.

As part of the budget process, Habra conducted a survey of community members, parents and school staff. One of the takeaways was that music and art are important to the school community. Those were the two most mentioned programs when respondents were asked what is most important to keep.

“Music, art, career and technical education. All of these programs are hands-on activities that really help students clarify who they are,” says Habra. “And that helps them be prepared for whatever they’re planning on doing after they leave our district.”

Muccino did not return requests for comment by the time this story aired.

According to Habra, 84 percent of the district’s budget is based on salaries and benefits. And, he says spending can’t be reduced without cutting staff.

The district is also looking to reduce the cost of staff by incentivizing retirement for longtime teachers on the higher end of the pay scale. KHNS will have that story later this week.