For the last few months, administrators at the Haines Borough School District have been trying to figure out how to save money in the coming fiscal year. The effort led to a couple cuts to staff positions. This week, Haines Superintendent Tony Habra presented a stripped-down FY18 budget to the school board.

At the beginning of the year, the Haines School found out it was facing a major budget shortfall.

“We’re going to have to find half a million dollars somewhere,” said Superintendent Habra back in January. That’s when the district found out it would receive less state funding than anticipated in the 2018 fiscal year.  The loss created a budget shortfall of about $487,000.

Since then, the administration has been working to pare down the budget and reduce the amount of money they’ll need to borrow from the district’s savings account. Habra presented a revised budget at a school board workshop this week.

“This is not a scorched-to-earth budget, but it’s definitely a bare bones budget,” said Habra. “There’s lots of things taken out of it that we went through and said ‘how do we kind of step back a little bit from this or that.’”

The school has already reduced next year’s budget by three staff positions. Music teacher Jason Muccino and reading specialist Janice Byerlee’s positions were eliminated. Curriculum director and assistant principal Cheryl Stickler retired at the end of this school year and her position will not be filled.

Now, the shortfall is down to about $150,000.

To get there, there are a few more jobs that may not be filled next year. At a workshop this week, Habra presented the school board with a budget that leaves out two paraprofessional positions that would normally be filled.

Those paras fall within the special education department. Principal Rene Martin said they mainly assist students that need some extra help.

“That maybe don’t have the supports at home,” said Martin. “They just need that extra structure, support and focus. And I guess that’s where these two paras, these two positions, that’s where we’re going to feel it. And the ability for us to have homework help for enough students, and the after-school tutoring for enough students is my fear.”

Director of Student Services Kim Cunningham said teachers would likely have to pick up the slack.

“At this point we would have no support within the middle school classrooms to assist any students who are struggling in English, Social Studies, Math or Science,” said Cunningham. “This year we had a para in all of those classrooms providing support.”

There are still a few things up in the air that could affect the FY18 budget. The state is not done finalizing its budget for the coming fiscal year. The senate is considering a 5 percent cut to the base student allocation. For the Haines School, that would mean losing about another $167,000.

It’s that uncertainty that caused Habra to propose the paraprofessional cut. He says if the state keeps the BSA status-quo, he will suggest holding onto those jobs.

Additionally, the number of students enrolling in the school could vary from the district’s estimate. That would result in a change in state funding.

There are other areas of the budget that were trimmed as well. That includes some money for technology upgrades that Habra hopes to add back into the budget if the money is there.

Hopefully some of the looming questions will be answered by June 27. That’s when the school board will meet to approve the FY18 budget.