FAIRBANKS — School district Superintendent Karen Gaborik proposed a reduction in force of 235 people if public education funding from the state is cut by $30 million, the amount that has been suggested by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The impacts would be bigger classes, snowier parking lots and longer wait times for technology help in public schools — among other things — according to a Monday discussion by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education. They also talked about consolidating schools as a way to save money.
Education leaders discussed how the school district might absorb the state cut, equal to 12-13 percent of the district’s $243 million annual budget, even as they took pains to avoid getting into specifics. The one-page plan by Gaborik does not detail which jobs could be cut.
“There is not a lot of sense that it is realistic,” Gaborik said of the potential state reduction in K-12 funding.
Many positions at the school district would be eliminated through attrition when employees quit or retire. Other workers would be laid off.
The workforce would reduce across the district: 85 teachers, 43 “districtwide support” workers and 108 employees involved with “school and student supports.”
Class sizes would rise so much that it would be a challenge to get all of the desks into classrooms, according to Gaborik.
The loss in state support translates to middle school and high school classes in the 30s and 40s. Elementary class sizes would rise to the high 20s.
The superintendent’s advice to the school board was to pass a budget assuming no state cut and hope for the best.
“I really don’t want to spend too much time on this,” she said of the cut plan. “I’m hopeful that we don’t need it.”
The superintendent said she will be watching the Legislature over the coming months and preparing contingency budget plans to present to the school board, which has a deadline of April 1 to provide an approved budget to the borough mayor and assembly.
The school board also reviewed a graph showing the historic local taxpayer contribution to public education. The graph shows steady growth in local support for schools since the local contribution was $36.5 million in 2005.
Local support for education peaked at $55 million by 2016.
Reductions in subsequent years have brought the number down to $50 million for the current year.
School district enrollment has also declined since 2016, dropping from 13,851 students in 2016 to 13,290 students this year, according to the graph.
A survey last fall of about 900 parents and school district employees shows that class sizes, school safety and instructional support are budget priorities.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.