School district to face financial hardship

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District faces budget concerns for 2023-24 school year
The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is facing some budgetary hurdles going into the new year.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 4:42 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2022 at 8:35 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is expected to see a shortage of funding for the 2023-24 school year, and the impact of smaller budget will likely have a sharper sting when accounting for inflation.

During the pandemic the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) saw a reduction in enrollment and a correlated drop in in the budget. The pandemic did provide some financial support however through COVID relief funds. “In the past there was a fund balance, and then we had the COVID relief money that helped pad our budget a little bit,” said Karen Melin, the Chief School Administrator for the school district. The COVID relief funds are nearly depleted according to Melin, and now the district has lost the fund balance. This means that the district will only be allowed to spend the money allocated to them by the municipal, state and federal government.

“What we can expect is cuts and program adjustments, bringing things into a tighter alignment than we’ve ever seen before,” Melin said.

These cuts will be coming at a time when teacher recruitment is low across the nation. Due to the reduced staff, the student to teacher ratio in classrooms will also increase.

As the district has slowly returned to normalcy, the student enrollment numbers have gone back up by about 500 according to Melin; however an increase in total funds will do little to make up for the increase in costs. “Our base student allocation will be the same as it has been over the last seven years. There hasn’t been an increase in all those years,” Melin said, meaning that since 2015, the amount of funding allocated per student has remained the same despite the rise in interest rates and other financial increases.

While the total amount of funds for the budget is projected to be small, the state and federal governments have yet to pass any budget. This means that there is still an opportunity to see education funding increased. Melin emphazised the public can participate in securing more funding for education by “advocat[ing] with your legislator, your representative, your senator.”