The Sitka School District has come out ahead in this year’s budget process — by about $1-million.
Nevertheless, district officials are not necessarily jumping for joy. The practice in Sitka schools recently has been to budget conservatively, and hope for news like this. And then hope it happens again next year.
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With just over $1-million more on the balance sheet than he was expecting for this school year, Sitka superintendent Steve Bradshaw is surprisingly subdued.
He does not consider the additional funding a windfall at all.
“No. What I consider it is that we can make it through again next year, if the board decides to use approximately the same amount of reserves that they used this year, then they won’t have to cut as much out of next year’s budget.”
Sitka’s funding boost comes from several sources: The district has 43 more students than it planned on, and 3 more intensive students. Combined, that’s well over a half-million more in revenues from the state just based on enrollment.
Two chunks of one-time funding from the state — for general education and for energy — account for another half-million.
And there’s another $400,000 in funding from the federal government’s Secure Rural Program.
Add it all up, subtract out increases in certain expenses — like salaries to cover paraprofessionals for the intensive needs students, some administrative expenses, and you’ve got a budget increase of about $1-million.
For Bradshaw, though, the real windfall may come in putting money back in reserves that he and the board had pulled out to make the original budget balance.
It’s an annual drama in schools statewide: trying to create a budget in the spring for the following school year. Things were particularly uncomfortable in Sitka, since the board had dipped into reserves to the tune of $900,000.
“I was hoping we could recoup half of that. But that’s a hope. There’s no way of telling. That’s the tough part of budgeting in this state. People get tired of hearing the superintendent and the school board cry wolf, but that’s the only way when you build the budget on numbers that don’t come until October — the following year, the year that you’re in your budget — that’s the only way you can do it and still hang on to a handle on your finances.”
Creating a mechanism in Alaska to provide so-called “forward funding” for schools remains a legislative goal for the Sitka district. Until that happens, the good news of a budget increase in one year could just as easily be bad news the following year.
Bradshaw says there have been several close shaves in his years in the Sitka District. He was glad this was not one of them.
“Had we not gotten the extra students, and the extra two or three intensive students in the budget this year, and we had to keep that $900,000 in, that would have left us very little money to get through this next budget cycle.”
Bradshaw is a short-timer in the district. After 13 years on the job, he’s submitted his resignation effective at the end of June next year — time enough for one more budget.
In other business at its regular meeting this week (12-3-13), the Sitka School Board passed a revision to its policy covering cyberbullying.
The new language notes that since the original policy was adopted “Technological advances have expanded the ways in which harassment, intimidation, or bullying can occur, including the ability to bully with anonymity and to reach a much broader audience.”
Superintendent Steve Bradshaw cautioned the board to pay close attention to the policy, because any bullying that affects a student’s well-being — even if it occurs off-campus or outside of school hours — could subject the bully to disciplinary action, including expulsion.
Bradshaw anticipated that any cyberbullying case that rose to this level would likely be addressed by the board.
The board also accepted the resignation of assistant principal Johnnie Cotton, who was in his first year at Sitka High School. Bradshaw said the resignation was due to family issues. Karen Macklin has accepted a long-term sub assignment until a replacement can be hired.