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Fairbanks school board hears proposed budget

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Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 12:15 am | Updated: 1:44 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The Citizens Budget Review Committee made its proposed budget recommendations to the school board at a public hearing and work session Monday night.

The committee’s Heidi Haas and Larry Ehnert presented a report that included some adjustments to the district’s proposed budget and a list of priorities to add back to the budget if extra funding comes in.

The district’s proposed budget totals $216,947,820.

Regardless of whether extra funding comes from the state Legislature or Fairbanks North Star Borough, the committee suggested the school district’s proposed increases to special education be reduced by $1.6 million from the proposed $2.4 million. The committee also recommended the curriculum budget be reduced by $1 million and that the district eliminates six reserve teacher positions, saving $600,000. It recommended eliminating an elementary school counselor and sharing one position between the two Eielson Air Force Base elementary schools.

With the $3.2 million gathered back by reducing those items, the committee recommended maintaining elementary class sizes for a $2.2 million increase, adjusting middle school staffing and high school staffing for a total of $1 million and reinstating the counselor at Lathrop High School.

“This was a really hard thing for us to work through,” Haas said.

The committee was composed of eight resident members and two school board members. Superintendent Pete Lewis and Mike Fisher, chief financial officer with the district, were on hand at each February meeting to answer questions about the district’s proposed budget items.

Though the administration based its budget off flat funding in a worst-case scenario, the committee decided to make a list of priority items to add back if extra funding comes.

“Essentially, we are hopeful that the state funding will come through,” Haas said.

Their top priorities were to reinstate an elementary school principal for $140,000, reinstate an assistant superintendent for $114,000 and reinstate secondary classroom teachers for $1 million.

Next they hoped to reinstate a reading tutor program for $463,500 and a math tutor program for $543,550.

Board member Wendy Dominique wondered why both the reading tutors and math tutors appeared on the “add-back” list. She said there was some data that showed the math tutors weren’t as successful as the reading tutors.

Haas said that Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Roxa Hawkins told the committee the math tutor program could use further evaluation before it is ruled out as unsuccessful.

The committee also proposed to reinstate two information technology teachers for $200,000, reinstate the curriculum materials purchase for $1 million, reinstate senior high counselors for $200,000, reinstate the elementary counselor for $400,000 and reinstate the special education budget’s $1.6 million.

Board members didn’t have too many questions for the committee members after their report. President Kristina Brophy said they would, though, throughout the next month as the board makes adjustments to the proposed budget. The recommended budget must be handed over to the Borough Assembly on April 5.

Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.

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