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School Board, PTAs to Host Public Meetings on District’s Plans for Budget Crisis


The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and the local Council of PTAs will host three meetings over the next week, beginning Saturday, to inform the public about the district’s budget problems. District officials also hope to get feedback from the public about their proposals to cut jobs and programs.

School Board President Heidi Haas says district officials scheduled the meetings to share with the public how they crafted a budget that will eliminate about 66 positions to close a $7.6 million funding shortfall caused mainly by the district’s falling enrollment.

Haas says the officials also will talk about how they might handle another $3.4 million cutback in state funding. She says Superintendent Karen Gaborik has assigned staff to come up with proposals on further cuts to deal with that additional shortfall, but they haven’t come up with any specifics yet.

“There is not a number that is tied to the $3.4 million, in terms of positions,” Haas said.

She says additional cuts to close an $11 million funding gap would probably be done by trimming both personnel and programs, the same method used to come up with the recommendation to cut 66 positions for the $7.6 million shortfall.

“If we’re dealing with the full 11 million, programs and positions – it’s going to affect everybody,” she said.

Haas says the cuts will make it more challenging to provide quality instruction, due to larger class sizes and fewer offerings. She says district officials also realize there’ll be wider impacts.

“It’s not just about our students,” she said. “But if we’re having to lay off 66 folks, then those folks are going to be looking for jobs. And those folks live in our community.”

So there’s a lot of talk about in the three meetings being held in conjunction with the Fairbanks Council of PTAs. The first will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the district Administrative Center on Fifth Avenue downtown. The second will be held Monday evening at Tanana Middle School; the third on Thursday evening at North Pole Elementary.

Haas says she hopes it’ll be a two-way conversation, with public providing input on the plan to deal with the funding shortfalls. She says district officials also will talk about how the public can help, by communicating their concerns about the budget cuts with both local and state officials.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.