School board, Common Council meet in joint work session
On Wednesday, April 12 the Nome Public Schools Board of Education met with the Nome Common Council in a joint work session to discuss NPS’ current financial situation and their proposed fiscal year 2018 budget request from the City.
Last year, the City gave just over $2 million to the school district for FY2017, which is 60 percent of their maximum allowable contribution. As of the April 12 joint work session, the school board plans to request an additional $450,000 from the City, increasing their contribution to 80 percent of the maximum amount.
According to City Manager Tom Moran, he and Finance Director Julie Liew plan to round the contribution number to an even $2.5 million when they present their budget to the City, which means additional funding of around $485,000.
The school board has until the end of April to make a final contribution request to the Common Council, and the City has until the end of May to make a decision on how much they will contribute to the school district.
While the fourth draft of the FY18 school budget presented to the school board as well as the Council was what Superintendent Shawn Arnold deemed a “worst case scenario,” the possibility of that scenario becoming reality is still likely.
In that fourth draft, the budget is balanced with the potential closure of the Nome Youth Facility as well as a 5 percent reduction of the Base Student Allocation funding at the state level. With a combination of those situations, on top of a variety of smaller cuts like transportation funds, the district projects an additional $1.2 million deficit, on top of their original budget cuts.
But again, this is the worst-case scenario.
“The hope is that BSA [base student allocation] will be flat-funded,” explained Superintendent Arnold to the Council in the joint work session. Until the budget is finalized at the state level, the district won’t know exactly where it stands; there are still a couple crucial weeks to go until things are decided, if the legislature finishes the state’s budget on time.
During the joint session, councilmembers wanted to hear more about what the worst-case scenario budget looks like. Mayor Richard Beneville wanted to know about the teaching positions that were planned to be cut, how it would affect class sizes and what kind of advanced or dual credit courses would still be left.
Superintendent Arnold explained that in the worst-case scenario, a librarian is cut as well as two physical education teachers and a Spanish teacher from certified staff. Although the cuts could limit the options available to students as far as electives are concerned, they would not actually increase class sizes.
Councilmember Lew Tobin wanted to know about school clubs and how they would be affected by the budget. Superintendent Arnold explained that some clubs are included in the athletics and activities part of the budget, but the majority of clubs are funded by student fundraisers, so would not be affected by the cuts.
Superintendent Arnold also stressed his hopes in Nome’s representation at the state level. He said he has been in constant contact with Representative Neal Foster and Senator Donny Olson, who are both pushing education agendas and attempting to keep as much funds as possible in district coffers.
School Board President Dr. Barb Amarok addressed the Council as well. “It’s about serving students, not losing jobs,” said Amarok. She explained that even in this financial crisis, the district is working hard with the help of Superintendent Arnold to start many new initiatives including class looping, cooperative learning, counselor grants, and more. “We are working to do the best we can for the kids,” she said.
Other members of the Council and the board expressed their joy at seeing so many community members at last Monday’s regular Common Council meeting. Councilmembers were impressed by the turnout and public comments by the community, staff and especially the students. “We are all in this together,” added Mayor Beneville as the meeting wrapped up. “The future of our kids is our future.”