Nome Public Schools prepare for budget crunch and cuts
Eight-hundred thousand dollars – that’s what needs to be cut, and that’s the number on the minds of teachers, staff, parents and administrators throughout the Nome Public School District. Where those cuts will happen is yet to be determined, as the NPS district finance committee meets to prepare a budget draft to present to the school board at the February 21 regular board meeting.
Monday night, the district finance committee comprised of teachers, staff, parents and advisors met with Superintendent Shawn Arnold in the Nome Elementary School Library to discuss the first steps towards balancing next year’s budget. School board members Nancy Mendenhall and Brandy Arrington were present as board representatives.
During the meeting, a first draft of fiscal year 2018’s budget was presented, with a comparison to FY17’s final budget. Preliminary numbers show revenues at an estimated $14.8 million and expenditures at an estimated $15.6 million – leaving a difference of just under $800,000.
Superintendent Shawn Arnold sent out an announcement on January 31 to the NPS community asking for feedback from parents and students regarding budget shortfalls. “You know first-hand the great academics, opportunities and learning that are happening at NPS and what you’d like to see continue in our school,” said Arnold in the announcement. “In the coming months, I will be asking for your help in next year’s budget development process through surveys and meetings.”
Parents were invited to attend the public committee meeting on Monday, although attendance proved to be minimal. Besides the committee, just two reporters and one community member were in attendance. Superintendent Arnold told the Nome Nugget that budget development would be an ongoing process. He wanted to encourage parents to attend future meetings, and to take an active role in “shaping their children’s future and the quality of education being delivered.”
After gaining recommendations from the committee, Arnold said that he hopes to send out several surveys to the Nome community asking for input on possible areas for budget cuts and what should be deemed as non-negotiable items. “Non-negotiables” became a main topic of Monday’s meeting – these are the items in the budget that would be determined as untouchable.
At the recommendation of Anvil City Science Academy lead teacher Lisa Leeper, the committee split into smaller working groups during the meeting to discuss possible areas for cuts and to decide on things that must be left off the chopping block. The groups would then present their recommendations to the committee as a whole and Superintendent Arnold, and eventually to the school board. The board will then review the draft of the budget as well as proposed cuts and make suggestions from there.
Arnold said that parent participation is appreciated during the process, and hopes that the Nome community will provide valuable input for suggested cuts. He said that parents could help to provide a different perspective of what is or isn’t needed in the schools, and would also like input from Nome homeowners that may not have children in schools – as they are taxpayers and stakeholders as well.
As NPS faces budget shortfalls, just like nearly every public entity in the state of Alaska is facing for the upcoming year, putting a price on education turns out to be a necessity. But, whether that price will come from the removal of teacher positions, less administrators, reduced youth programs, cut travel expenses, or a combination of it all is yet to be determined.