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By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
"Over the next two weeks," said Ketchikan School Board President Matt Eisenhower, "we'll make probably the single most-hardest decision that all of us on the School Board will ever make."
On Wednesday the School Board started discussion on the budget for the next school year, which has to be submitted to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough by May 1.
"If we undershoot what we predict what the state will pay us," said Eisenhower, "we will potentially let some very good people go from our organization that may move on, and that we may not get them back."
He said they're in a predicament.
"If we overshoot our expectations that means June and July when we find out the reality of our budget, if we have to then cut then, that's really unfair to professionals to ask them to find new employment in just a couple months."
At the School Board meeting next week they will do a first reading of the budget and at the meeting on April 24, they'll do a second reading and adopt the final budget.
On Wednesday, the School Board gave direction to staff in regard to coming back with a proposed budget.
District Business Manager Katie Parrott presented on what a flat-funded budget would look like, as well as reductions of 2.5%, 5%, 10%, and a 23% reduction -- which is what would occur under the state budget proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The difference between what the district would expect from the state based upon normal process as opposed to the governor's proposal is $8 million, according to the district’s figures.
Parrot said they would handle a 23% reduction by a pro rata reduction across every line item in the budget. Every line item would be reduced, some eliminated altogether.
While Eisenhower made it clear this is a worst-case scenario, he said it's still a possibility.
Under this 23% reduction, the district would lose 28 teachers and administrators and 28 support staff, all additional transfers to health insurance, and all activity funds.
"Given the accomplishments of our students over the last few months, that would be unimaginable to me," said Parrott.
She added, "Because of the reduction that we would have to absorb in what's called the supplies and services lines, the reductions in utilities, in the utilization of supplies and materials in some of these larger line items. I don't know that we could absorb those without closing a school."
Under this level of reduction, the district would probably have to reduce and renegotiate the allocation that the district gives to the charter schools, cause at this point the district couldn't afford the additional funds, said Parrott.
Also, the average classroom size would be increase by 10-12, so a classroom of 20 students, would turn into a classroom of 30 students.
Parrott said it would absolutely have a negative effect on educational outcomes, because the district wouldn't be able to plan well enough for this in a short amount of time to be able to pull it off well.
The School Board asked the district to come back with a budget reflecting between 2.5% and 5% in cuts.
In other business, the application period for the vacant School Board seat ended with no applicants. The board agreed to open it back up. Since they're about halfway over with their mandatory time limit to fill a vacancy, Eisenhower said that they had the ability to appoint someone without going through the application process if need be.
Also, the School Board awarded a contract of just over $1 million to Coogan Construction to replace the leaking roof on Houghtaling Elementary School. This was made possible through a school grant.
“This kind of got in before the cuts," said Eisenhower. "Many districts around the state have had projects that they desperately need that have been abruptly canceled. So we're very very grateful that this one moved forward.”