Dr. Karen Gaborik

Dr. Karen Gaborik 

FAIRBANKS — A new charter school, new language arts curriculum materials and an information technology security officer are some of the enhancements in the FY20 public education budget approved Wednesday by the district Board of Education.

The $243 million recommended budget — a final budget comes later — increases school district spending by $754,171 over the current school year. It assumes three labor groups accept the district’s offer of 0.5 percent raises.

Education leaders characterized the plan as maintaining current program levels. The vote of approval was unanimous.

“This is a pretty basic budget,” said Tim Doran, school board vice president. “There is not a lot of room for innovation, creativity, trying new things.”

The school board is hoping for no change in financial support from the borough or from the state — its biggest provider — while state and local leaders face deficits.

“This is the recommended budget. This is not the final budget,” said School Board President Wendy Dominique.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has called for statewide cuts to K-12, including $30 million in support to the Fairbanks school district.

Legislators oppose the cut. Committees in Juneau are hashing out the details.

The education budget was approved before funding is known because of an April 1 deadline to provide a budget to the borough.

The school board’s recommended budget relies on spending $7.8 million out of district reserves.

It reflects no change to class sizes and provides for the Discovery Peak Charter School, North Pole’s first K-8 charter school.

New teaching positions were approved for Joy Elementary School, Tanana Middle School, North Pole High School, West Valley High School and Hutchison High School, according to a school district news release.

Overall, fewer teachers will be at the school district, however, due to declining enrollment.

The budget plan reflects 13 fewer elementary teaching jobs and eight or nine fewer secondary teaching positions, according to the news release.

Other staffing reductions listed by the school district include part-time administrative positions in accounts payable and purchasing, a nursing clinical coordinator and a swim aide at the North Pole Middle School.

Cuts to staff travel, supplies and equipment were also noted in the news release.

Some travel was reportedly added. Board member Erin Morotti asked Superintendent Karen Gaborik about the allocation. Gaborik told the school board that she wants to take students to Juneau. She would work with the regional student council to select students.

“We’ll see if it survives in the end,” Gaborik said of the unspecified allocation.

No one testified at Wednesday’s meeting. The recommended budget came out in early February and has sparked very little public testimony overall and few emails, according to the school board secretary.

Dominique said the scant testimony reflects that there are little-to-no cuts being proposed by local education leaders.

“We approved a budget that will continue to provide a high-quality education to our students,” the school board president said in a prepared statement. “We are aware of the uncertainties our state is facing and are depending on our Legislature to keep their commitment to adequately fund public education.”

School board member Sean Rice said he remains hopeful.

“Seeing what is coming from Juneau, I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t have to come back and start making those hard cuts,” he said.

Last year, the school district planned for about $8 million in cuts and developed a budget eliminating about 50 jobs — teachers, custodians, librarian assistants, after-school activities coordinators, psychologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

In the end, the cuts were reversed and the school board was able to add full-day kindergarten at multiple schools and reduce class sizes.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMborough.