City approves Juneau School District funding

Meander Way riverbank project will not move forward

Mayor Ken Koelsch speaks during the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting Monday night. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire)

The Juneau School District Fiscal Year 2019 budget is official. Well, at least for now.

 

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly unanimously approved the district’s budget during its regular meeting at Assembly Chambers Monday. The total operating budget approved — including general operations, special revenue and student/activities — will be approximately $85.8 million, which is approximately $1.5 million less than last year. General operations were cut by $3.5 million.

However, the district will not be receiving as much as it originally planned. The district budgeted for $6,030 base student allocation (BSA) — $100 more than last year — and total city funding of approximately $28 million. Both numbers ended up being slightly less. BSA is the amount funded per full-time student at a school.

City Finance Director Bob Bartholomew explained that the sum difference between a one-time boost from the state, the amount funded by city and state and what the district planned for in its original budget would equal approximately $244,000 less total funding from the state ($198,000) and city ($46,000) combined. The funding from the state was due in part to the Alaska Legislature approving a one-time $20-million boost to Alaska public schools. The BSA ended up being increased by $84 instead of the projected $100. The city’s maximum funding is affected by how much state laws allow. The city’s funding to the district will be $27,743,100. Bartholomew said with a budget dealing in the tens of millions, this amount does not affect the overall budget.

“This adjustment is pretty small,” Bartholomew said. “I don’t think the budget needs to be amended at this time. I think the budget in front of (the Assembly) accurately reflects the budget.”

Bartholomew said when final enrollment numbers are calculated in February 2019, the district can revisit the budget and adjust the numbers then.

Automotive program

The issue of cutting the district’s automotive program was discussed by Assembly member Beth Weldon. The program costs the district $40,000 to rent space at the University of Alaska Southeast Technical Education Center, across from Juneau-Douglas High School — and is part of the FY19 district budget cuts. During a public testimony period at a special Assembly meeting on April 25, support of the program was heard. Currently, Auto Mechanics I, II and part of Intro to Auto classes are taught at UAS.

The Assembly agreed to move the financial talks about the automotive program until a future Assembly Finance Committee meeting.

City rejects Meander Way riverbank project

A $5.1-million riverbank stabilization plan was rejected by a 3-6 vote during the Assembly meeting Monday night. Assembly members Loren Jones, Mary Becker and Jesse Kiehl voted in favor of the project. Assembly members Jerry Nankervis, Rob Edwardson, Maria Gladziszewsk, Beth Weldon, Norton Gregory and Mayor Ken Koelsch voted against the project.

The project was planned along the Mendenhall River between 9399 Rivercourt Way and 3463 Meander Way. The plan would have included funding of approximately $3 million from the city. It would also include that the property owners would pay approximately $2.1 million as part of a neighborhood improvement project, referred to as Local Improvement Districts (LIDs), which breaks down to $80,000 per property. Some residents of that area were concerned that recent flooding in the area that has already eroded some of the riverbank would eventually cause even more serious issue.

Assembly member Jesse Kiehl, who voted in favor of the project, said the city would have to act eventually on stabilizing the riverbank and believed sooner rather than later was the best idea.

“We can’t have a great city if we just allow the river to eat away at (it),” Kiehl said.

Gregory said the cost to the public was one of his concerns about approving the multimillion dollar project.

“This runs the risk of causing a serious financial burden to the families and individuals that live in that neighborhood and some of those families may not be able to afford the LID,” Gregory said.


• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.


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