The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board has approved a $281.5 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Board president Heidi Haas says the final package, passed at a special meeting last night, includes amendments restoring two school counselors, a district wide art teacher and part-time library assistants. Approval of the budget follows lobbying that yielded a boost in state and local support; increases District Chief Financial Officer Mike Fisher says have allowed restoration of earlier proposed staff reductions.
"Initially, the recommendation based on flat funding was that we were going to have to increase class size and cut a number of teachers. The recommended budget had cuts of about 28.6 teaching positions," he said. "With the legislature approving HB 278 and our local assembly kicking in additional funding at the end there we were able to restore our classroom teachers."
Fisher says the district will eliminate about 10 teachers because of declining enrollment. He also lists other cuts that remain in the budget. "There's still a position or two, like the switch board operator, that will be cut out of the budget. And other budget line items that are maybe not personnel line items, but other areas that have been trimmed throughout the whole process, so we're not totally whole," Fisher said.
Fisher says the $245 million operating portion of the spending plan is mostly salaries and benefits. That’s a $20 million increase, but Fisher says most of it is Fairbanks' portion of $3 billion state legislators put toward covering the unfunded liability in the teacher and public employee retirement systems. He describes it as pass through funding.