The school board added $8 million to the public education budget Tuesday, raising spending for the 2019-20 school year to $247.2 million.
That’s about $4.7 million more than what was approved for the school year, which ended last week, and comes as the school district projects continued declining enrollment.
Almost $6 million of the budget change was due to added labor costs from three recently negotiated union contracts. The school board also approved a payment to the state employee retirement system and 4.5 new positions — two teachers, a safety assistant, a prevention intervention specialist and a part-time instructional support person.
The overall number of teachers in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is going down for the next school year, which begins Aug. 19, but the number of school support staff is growing, Andy DeGraw, chief operating officer, told the Board of Education.
The board modified the fiscal 2019-20 budget in a 4-1 vote. Board member Allyson Lambert cast the “no” vote, saying the budget is unsustainable.
The school board is spending more than $10 million out of reserves to fully fund the spending plan for the fiscal 2019-20 school year.
Lambert expressed doubts that the reserves will have much left over when the school board goes to set the budget for the 2020-21 school year.
“Where are we going to get the money to maintain the services?” she said.
Superintendent Karen Gaborik said leaders this year focused on the budget they believe is necessary instead of centering the discussion around possible cuts.
“After five years of being ready for things to fall apart, they haven’t,” Gaborik said. “I feel like if we need to pivot, we will.”
Education leaders expressed gratitude to state lawmakers and assembly members for fulfilling funding requests this year.
“This budget allows us to continue with the current level of services and add a few specific student supports in a few targeted areas,” Gaborik said in a prepared statement. “I am very appreciative of the Legislature and the borough assembly for their continued support of public education.”
The district is projecting a decrease of 95 students, putting projected enrollment at 13,194, according to a news release.
The budget reflects a reduction of 12 elementary teachers and 7.7 secondary teachers, the news release stated. The positions are being eliminated through attrition.
The school district is anticipating a small reduction in state revenues, which is due to the enrollment decline, and a small boost in federal funding known as a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILT, which is paid to school districts that serve military populations.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.