Empire Live: Assembly and School Board hold joint meeting

Empire Live: Assembly and School Board hold joint meeting

School Board and assembly discuss JSD budget 2020-2026

Summary: The Assembly is still digging into the weeds of which model is the best option for tackling child care in Juneau. Normally, the city would be able to look to the state for at least some funds but the Assembly agreed the state could not be counted on for much funding. The process is complicated by the city’s current fiscal situation. Expenditure levels are exceeding revenue and the Assembly has committed to making reductions.

Child care centers struggle with getting their staff accredited to qualified levels. The city could develop community training partnerships and training grants to help centers train their workforce.

Triem asks how workforce development will affect capacity.

Cosgrove says that a well-trained workforce is tied to maintaining a successful business.

The state does provide a certain amount of review and support, Cosgrove said, but the City Manager’s office thought that it was prudent to have multiple levels of quality support and accountability.

“If you can train people, if you pay people,” Jones says, “they tend to stick around.” A lot of overhead is caught up in training new employees.

The city could also look at developing an “employer guide” which would provide guidance to employers to create a child friendly workplace.

7:25 p.m.

The city can provide funds per hour or per child. Barr says the city prefers the per hour model because it’s simpler administratively, and it allows for more flexibility when children change child care centers.

Property tax exemptions could be used to induce people to open private homes to child care facilities.

There are a number of options the city could pursue to fund child care programs. Each of those options comes with its own stipulations and varying levels of administrative assistance.

7:15 p.m.

Barr says there are some CBJ owned facilities were child care could be provided via a private provider. There are modular classrooms at Floyd Dryden Middle School which would cost about $150,000 for 60 children.

Mendenhall River Community School could hold about 40 children at $110,000 and Mt. Jumbo could provide spaces for 60 children at a cost of $750,000.

Those costs would be a one-time investment to bring the modular classrooms up to state and federal requirements, Weldon says.

City officials have also had conversations with local churches, many of which have or had child care facilities of their own. Many churches are close to being able to sustain a week-long child care program but would need some financial support to get that started, Cosgrove said.

As a rough estimate, it would cost about $25,000 for a church to get a child care operation running, according to Cosgrove.

7:05 p.m.

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove and Robert Barr of the CBJ Assembly Child Care Committee will discuss the child care update.

Juneau has about 2,300 children under six, according to numbers from the McDowell Group, Barr says. About 1780 of those children need child care.

Barr estimates there are about 1,100 child care spaces available in Juneau divided between licensed, full-time care, part-time licensed care, and unlicensed care.

The need is greatest for infants and toddlers, Barr says. This is first and foremost a economic problem. The average cost per child Barr says is roughly $12,000 a year ($1,000 a month).

In Juneau, most of the child care centers that have been operating for a long time have their facility costs covered. It’s very difficult for child care businesses to pay rent and pay a living wage at the same time.

High quality unlicensed care does exist, Barr says, but as a public entity the city cannot subsidize unlicensed care.

6:52 p.m.

The Committee of the Whole has come to order. On tonight’s agenda are a child care committee update, a Juneau Economic Plan update and a Housing Action Plan update.

6:50 p.m.

The joint school board/Assembly meeting has adjourned and a regular Committee of the Whole meeting is set to begin after a brief break.

6:30 p.m.

Enrollment for 2020 is a projected 4,577. That translates to a funding increase of $1.2 million, according to a slide presented by the school board.

In 2008, health care costs accounted for 10 percent of the JSD’s budget, Holst says. In 2018, health care was 15 percent of the budget.

The School Board has requested the state legislature to evaluate the costs and benefits of health care plans for Alaska.

6:25 p.m.

Holst asks what are the most important things JSD should focus on in the next five years. Weiss says that the school district received over 400 responses to this questions online.

Assembly member Wade Bryson says he wants to see more vocational training, a sentiment echoed by Mayor Beth Weldon.

Bryson also mentions, “adulting classes,” or more practical classes like cooking and accounting. “It’s fine to teach somebody French,” he says, “but how do they monetize that down the road?”

Bryson asks how close the district is to digitizing the schools. How much progress has been made towards to having a single device that contains all a student’s textbooks?

Assembly member Carole Triem speaks up, saying she feels she has to defend the arts. If we really want to create critical thinkers, she says, we need to be teaching history and philosophy as well.

Jones says that one of the problems with vocational classes are 1) parents who don’t want their children to work in the trades and 2) looking at how that’s going to affect standardized testing and the money that brings with it.

School board member Emil Mackey says that vocational training is one of the most expensive when it comes to per student expenditures, which is something that needs to be taken into account.

6:12 p.m.

Holst says that college readiness has improved in Juneau high schools. Over the last five years the number of Juneau students that require remedial classes when they arrive at university has gone down.

The Board wants to have a draft of the Strategic Plan in November and hopefully have a final plan in January. There was significant community input into the strategic plan survey, Holst says.

6:10 p.m.

There has been tremendous support for the Tlingit language/culture integration, board member Kevin Allen says. We’re going to work with our partners within the Native community to offer these programs. Right now, there isn’t a “continuum” of courses within the district, i.e. there are classes at the elementary school level, but none at the middle school level and a few in high schools.

The kindergarten readiness priority addresses two important issues for the community. One is supporting pre-K education and the other is the need for childcare in Juneau.

6:05 p.m.

Holst is walking the group through the JSD priorities for 2019-2020. Among the priorities are reading at grade level by 3rd grade, enhancing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Tlingit language integration and kindergarten readiness.

Improved high school offerings through collaboration between high schools is also on the list.

Our is to maximize the strengths of each school individually Weiss says.

5:55 p.m.

School board member Brian Holst is addressing the joint meeting, saying that some of the costs presented in the budget report are slightly lower because the assessments were done last year.

Assembly member Greg Smith asks if the State of Alaska will be providing any funds for the capital improvement projects.

“I hope so,” Holst says. The state is constitutionally mandated Holst says, but that under the current circumstances when the city might be reimbursed is an open question.

The city is hoping the state will step up, Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski says, but at a certain point you have to stop waiting.

Sitting through the facilities meeting, Jones says, I don’t think the Riverbend Elementary School roof can wait another five years.

Sitting through Assembly meetings, Jones says, there’s a least one school, if we can’t afford the repair on it this year, it’ll be in dire shape.

5:40 p.m.

It’s out hope that by Saturday afternoon we will have enough consensus we won’t have to meet again,” Jones says. (Proposals will be made Thursday, and Assembly members will meet to discuss proposals Saturday.)

Assembly member Loren Jones is recounting to the audience the city’s current fiscal situation. The city’s budget would begin running a deficit in the coming years if changes were not made to revenue and expenditure levels.

Assembly members have been reviewing city finances for several weeks and are set to make proposals for revenues and expenditures on Thursday, Jones, says.

“While there’s some disagreement, we’re basically looking at between three and four million dollars that need to be reduced,” Jones says.

Roll call is being taken for both the Assembly and the school board.

5:30 p.m.

The Board of Education and the City Assembly are holding a joint meeting in Assembly chambers at City Hall. The school district and the board have drafted a budget for capital improvement projects for the Juneau School District from 2020 to 2026. Superintendent Bridget Weiss has drafted a letter requesting the funds from the Department of Education and Early Development.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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