Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon (right) discusses the Juneau School District’s financial crisis with school board Vice President Emil Mackey (right) and City Attorney Robert Palmer during a meeting Thursday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon (right) discusses the Juneau School District’s financial crisis with school board Vice President Emil Mackey (right) and City Attorney Robert Palmer during a meeting Thursday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Meetings to comment on Assembly’s proposed $9.6M of help to school district scheduled next two Mondays

Plan includes $4.1 million no-interest loan, picking up “shared costs” this year and next.

Two meetings allowing residents to comment on the Juneau Assembly’s proposed plan to provide nearly $10 million in assistance to help the Juneau School District with its financial crisis are scheduled during the next two Mondays, but officials aren’t necessarily encouraging people to show up at City Hall to testify.

An overflow crowd that spent about four hours testifying at a school board hearing about a proposed consolidation of schools Thursday prompted city leaders to consider if its meetings should be moved to a large space such as Centennial Hall. But instead a notice was sent out Friday reminding residents testimony can be submitted in advance by email and live online as well as in-person in the Assembly Chambers.

City Clerk Beth McEwen said there will also be an overflow video viewing area at City Hall if more people show up than the Assembly Chambers can hold.

The meetings are scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb 26, and 7 p.m. Monday, March 4.

The Assembly’s Committee of the Whole will be considering and taking testimony on three ordinances intended to help the school district with a projected deficit of nearly $8 million for the fiscal year ending June and about a $9.5 million deficit for the coming fiscal year starting July 1:

• Providing up to a $4.1 million interest-free loan payable due within five years. The district would not be required to make payments the first two years.

• Taking over $3.9 million in “shared costs” during the current year for buildings both the city and school district use for non-instructional purposes such as recreational activities.

• Taking over $1.6 million in “shared costs” for the coming fiscal year. The lower figure is because Assembly members, during a previous meeting, said they want to see the district’s budget for next year before deciding whether it will pick up a similar amount of costs as this year.

The school board, at its meeting that began Thursday evening and stretched past midnight on Friday, conceptually approved a consolidation plan for the coming school year that puts students in grades 9-12 at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, students in grades 7-8 and HomeBRIDGE at Thunder Mountain High School, and makes other smaller adjustments. However, that will close only part of the budget gap, and therefore other cuts in teachers, programs and/or other expenses will be necessary in a budget that district officials only have about three weeks to finalize.

As a result, the meetings at City Hall are occurring as soon as practically possible, City Manager Katie Koester stated in a memo to Assembly members

“Due to timing constraints, the process for negotiating and executing the fiscal relief provided in these ordinances has been rushed,” she wrote. “These ordinances are scheduled for public hearing and final adoption on March 4. Previous schedules had final adoption at a special meeting on the 11th of March which allowed for an additional public hearing, however the earlier the School District has budget certainty, the easier their decision making process will be as they work towards a March 12th deadline to pass a budget for FY25.”

The city also published an overview Friday of the financial plan being considered by district and city officials.

People interested in testifying via Zoom during the meetings can email city.clerk@juneau.gov by 4 p.m. on the day of each hearing. Emailed testimony can be sent to BoroughAssembly@juneau.gov and signups for in-person testimony will occur before each meeting in the Assembly Chambers.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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