Fairbanks School District budget faces positive developments, some uncertainty

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:01 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As budget season wraps up in Alaska, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District continues to plan its finances for the 2022-2023 school year.

However, some uncertainty remains over funding sources.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District receives funding from three primary sources: borough, state and federal. According to Karen Melin, Chief School Administrator with the district, “The largest amount, of those three buckets, is the state.”

This year, the district in its budget asked the borough for $2 million more than last year.

In addition to passing that budget amount, the borough assembly voted to add $650 thousand to the requested amount.

This could allow the district to retain kindergarten aides who were cut from the proposed budget. “The borough can’t really designate how the school district used funds, and they were really clear about that, that we’re not telling you how to spend the money, because they’re not allowed to do that. They did make known their wishes, which they can do, but for the district, that was a priority too,” Melin said.

In the budget passed by the state legislature, school districts saw more positive developments, including a one-time $50 million payment to districts across the state. Melin said, “It would have been more advantageous to the school system if it would have been built into a recurring funding, but I understand the idea behind that. Those recurring payments, no matter what the price of oil is, so being really careful about that.”

The Alaska Reads Act, also passed in the legislature, raises the Base Student Allocation by 30 dollars per student. “Budgetarily, how did school districts fare in this budget? Pretty favorably. We’d like to see it be sustainable, but it’s a start.”

However, the state budget still awaits action from Governor Mike Dunleavy, who may leave the one-time funding as is, or include any part of it as a line-item veto during his review.

The district is preparing for either possibility. “We have a budget that we worked through before we knew that we were going to possibly get more state funding, so we have that in place,” Melin explained, adding, “If indeed, this new money does come, the board’s done some work around “How are we going to use that? How are we going to spend that?’”

If the additional state funding is received, the board has discussed starting to replenish its general fund, among other ideas.

The district has until July 15 to submit its budget to the state.

According to Dunleavy’s office, the governor’s review of the budget is underway.

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