A profoundly austere budget for Fairbanks North Star Borough schools was released yesterday. Superintendent Karen Gaborik says the $188,019,83 draft contains the harshest budget cuts the district has endured. The school board begins its review on Monday.
243 jobs are cut out of the draft budget. It has 21 million dollars less revenue. And Superintendent Karen Gaborik is already dealing with a $6,000,000 loss from the school year we are in now.
“It’s a budget like I have never experienced in my entire career. Like everything else this year! The magnitude of cuts are beyond what I’ve experienced.”
Pandemic enrollment is the biggest factor in the revenue drop. Gaborik says the district lost 1,962 students since March 2020. They enrolled in homeschool programs, private schools or dropped out.
Elementary students returned to in-person learning last week, (Jan. 19) middle school students returned this week, and high schoolers next week. The district’s current count of in-person, e-learning and home learning students is about 11,000.
“As of last Monday, very few students who have left the district completely, have decided to come back.”
Using the State of Alaska’s Foundation Funding Formula per-student allocation of $5,930, those lost students look like a $12 million dollar gap, but it is more, becuase there is a ripple effect – a two-million dollar loss in transportation money and a two-million dollar loss in federal funding are tied to those lost students.
“Yeah, that’s the big driver of the revenue loss is the huge decline in enrollment.”
So, the state of Alaska contribution to the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s budget last year (FY 2021) was $130,943,251. Next year it is expected to be $120,895,672.
The budget anticipates the Fairbanks North Star Borough will contribute the same $49,045,500 it gave last year.
All of these numbers can be confusing, so the district has posted the draft budget on its website.
A presentation to families and the community on Facebook Live is planned for next week.
Gaborik say it is possible that student enrollment will rebound before next school year as concerns about the risks of in-person learning may dissipate.
“My sense of it is people are waiting for the vaccine, maybe hoping that that will roll out by 3rd quarter.”
Class sizes will increase, 24 or 26 kids in elementary schools. 29 students in each middle school classroom, and 32 students in high school classrooms.
The school board will hear from the district’s Chief Operating Officer, Andreu DeGraw at a worksession Monday night, then it will be on the agenda for the regular school board meeting on Tuesday.
The Board’s recommended budget is due to the Borough Assembly by April 1st.