Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the discussion about the Best Starts program will take place this week. It will be taking place later this month, likely on July 25. The article has been changed to reflect that.
The discussion over whether or not to place funding for a new pre-kindergarten program on the October municipal ballot will begin later this month.
At its July 25 meeting, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss putting the Best Starts for Juneau program on the municipal ballot Oct. 2 as an advisory proposition resolution. If that were to happen, voters would decide whether to fund the program with property tax revenue.
At this meeting, the Committee will discuss the issue and decide to either move it a regular Assembly meeting for public input or move it to a committee meeting for further discussion.
Earlier this year, a group supporting the pre-k readiness program presented at the May 3 CBJ Finance Committee meeting. Joy Lyon, Executive Director of Association for the Education of Young Children of Southeast Alaska, along with Ted Wilson, Director of Teaching and Learning Support at the Juneau School District, Brian Holst, Executive Director of Juneau Economic Development Council and Blue Shibler, owner of Discovery Preschool, gave a presentation asking for funding of $2.18 million spread over the city’s Fiscal Years 2019 and FY 20 budgets. At the May 9 Finance Committee meeting, the city decided not to fund the project.
The reason for the funding toward the program was outlined during that presentation. One of the main concerns brought up in the presentation was the number of children who are unprepared for kindergarten.
Only 32 percent of kindergarten students in Juneau demonstrate 11 of 13 goals determined by the department as “kindergarten ready,” according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Care and Development. The statewide average is 30 percent. Those skills range from communication to social interaction to general knowledge.
The goal of the program is to give child care providers financial incentives. The idea is that the incentives will increase teacher wages, improve learning environments and adopt the new curriculum. The program’s incentive awards are based on the number of children in the class and quality level of teaching, based on Learn & Grow, Alaska’s statewide Quality Recognition and Improvement System. Incentives would range between $125-$250 per month per child. Currently, 149 programs participate in Alaska in the statewide Quality Recognition and Improvement System.
This program is expected to cost up to $2.8 million, adjusted for annual inflation, of CBJ funding in the fifth year when the program is fully implemented. The Assembly would need to increase property taxes to fund this effort but may be able to partially offset property tax rate increases over the next five years with natural increases in local sales and property values. The amount given,$2.8 million, is the equivalent of $580,000 of property taxes in 2018, or $58 per $100,000 of assessed value.
City discussing recruiting a new municipal attorney
With Juneau’s Municipal Attorney Amy Mead taking a position as the state’s newest Juneau Superior Court judge, the CBJ will start its recruitment process in finding a replacement during Wednesday’s meeting.
The city manager and the municipal attorney are the only two high-level positions that report directly to the Assembly. There is no set timeline on when Mead will be replaced.
Wednesday’s discussion, according to City Manager Rorie Watt, will include the initial steps the Assembly will use in finding a replacement for Mead.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.