• Budget FAQ's

    The following questions were posed by district staff during strutured staff feedback opportunities that were initiated by the school board during the FY19 [2018-19 school year] budget development process. We are still populating the FAQ's, so please check back if you don't yet see your question.

    Updated: 3/1/18

     

  • Are Ventures and the Pool self-supporting?

    Posted by:

    The Pool was fully self-supporting last year [FY17] and is on track to be so again this year [FY18]. Ventures had a $18,825 deficit for FY17 and for FY18 it appears to be running in a deficit about half of what it had last year.

    Comments (-1)
  • Are the approx. $5 mil in Special Ed expenses fully funded by the State? Can we be more efficient?

    Posted by:

    Yes, the almost $5,000,000 from the General Fund that supports Special Education is within the amount the State calculates for us to spend on Special Education student needs. In regards to the efficiency question, the Federal government requires a Maintenance of Effort, which means that we cannot reduce the amount of money we spend on Special Education unless there is a corresponding reduction in the number of students eligible for Special Education. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Would freezing the pay scale for a year or two maintain smaller class sizes?

    Posted by:

    First, we want to thank members of both SEA and SESPA for their understanding of the financial realities we have been facing over the past few years. Specifically, since the 2015-16 school year, staff pay increases have only gone up a total of 5% and one year both unions did agree to a 0% increase. Secondly, there are two ways to freeze a salary - one is to not take an increase but to continue to move steps and columns, which is what we have recently done in Sitka Schools. The other way to freeze salary is to not move in regards to steps and columns. Either of these freeze options would require negotiations with the unions, which we cannot compel. To answer this question specifically, implementing the increased salaries outlined in the current negotiated agreements for the 2018-19 school year will cost the district $194,492, which could save 2 teaching positions; however, 2 teaching positions won't guarantee that we can maintain smaller class sizes.

    Comments (-1)
  • What is the likelihood of Secure Rural Schools being funded again?

    Posted by:

    There is no current legislation addressing Secure Rural Schools, and thus the likelihood is bleak. Secure Rural Schools is a Federal program to provide funds to local municipalities to support search and rescue, roads, and schools. The purpose of Secure Rural Schools is to compensate municipalities impacted by Federal land, which limits the municipalities' ability to expand its tax base. The last time Secure Rural Schools was authorized was in FY15. We are currently building our FY19 budget. The School Board recently passed a resolution in support of Secure Rural Schools and our delegation in DC has always been very supportive. Advocacy with our state's Senators and Representative is always welcome.

    Comments (-1)
  • Is there value in eliminating programs/increasing class sizes so the City gets a mill rate increase?

    Posted by:

    Our district has always used available resources to offer students the very best educational experience we could that year. If the citizens did vote for a mill rate increase in October of 2018, we would have the possibility to first see the financial benefits of the increase in the FY21 budget [2020-21 school year] if the City decided to increase our appropriation accordingly. 

    Comments (-1)
  • What are the real Pupil-Teacher Ratio's at secondary?

    Posted by:

    Pupil-Teacher Ratio's (PTRs) at secondary are not as simple a calculation as they are at elementary. Specifically, PTRs are intended to communicate the size of an average core academic class vs. an elective class, which is much easier to examine at the elementary level where teachers have their class of students all day long except for specials that offer teacher prep time, as well as enrichment for students. At the secondary level the students move to the teacher and students have choice in their elective classes and schedules. Consequently, PTRs at the different levels tend to include different groupings of teachers. The following numbers include all teachers at the secondary schools except for special education, related services, and grant funded positions. [Note: PHS ratio was changed on 2/22/18 because we had inadvertently included a partially-grant funded position in the original calculation.]

    Blatchley - 16:1

    Sitka High School - 16:1

    Pacific High School - 14:1

    Comments (-1)
  • Why is there a difference between tenured and non-tenured instead of looking at years of experience?

    Posted by:

    Tenure is defined in state statute AS14.20.150 as continuous employment in a school district for three full school years. Tenure rights are granted on the first contract day of the fourth consecutive school year. Until a teacher acquires tenure, the district is not obligated to ensure continuous employment. Tenure rights can be lost if there is a break in service. Teachers who transfer and who held tenure rights, re-acquire them on the first day of the second year of service in the new district. 

    Comments (-1)
  • How high of a priority is retaining current non-tenured teachers?

    Posted by:

    Having quality teachers (tenured and non-tenured) is a high priority for the district and has been throughout our known history. That being said, we must have a budget that balances Revenues and Expenditures, which may mean that we have to increase our pupil teacher ratios.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we change our current Library model?

    Posted by:

    The accreditation process for Sitka High School requires us to have a full-time certified Librarian on staff in the district. Accreditation is important for student scholarships and college admission. Although not best practices, we could change our Library model and have just one in the district. Pacific High School does not have a Librarian and Baranof Elementary has a part-time Librarian Aide. All other Librarians are tenured teachers who have rights in the district to other jobs for which they are qualified. That being said, we do not yet have the information about what would happen to our Library collections if we did not have an adequate number of certified Librarians to manage the resources. Management of Library resources is a specific skill that is not appropriate for an annual rotating staff, such as an AmeriCorps - and not just because AmeriCorps cannot replace existing staff. Our Library resources are available through a larger database and requires specific skills in data entry and management. For example, the Librarian Aide at Baranof checks in and out books; however, the input of new resources is achieved through assistance from the certified Librarians in the district.

    Comments (-1)
  • Could we require furlough days to save money?

    Posted by:

    Our district calendar does have three additional days over what is required by the state, and those three additional days are specific for teacher workdays. It should be noted that teacher workdays are distinctly different in state statute than inservice days, as inservice days are considered student days in session given the critical nature of teacher professional learning on classroom instruction. In order to answer this question further we would need to consult with our district's attorney and the Department of Education and Early Development, and of course our union leadership. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we partner with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp to provide arts education in our schools?

    Posted by:

    We are not completely sure we understand this question. Is the question whether or not Teaching Artists from the Sitka Fine Arts Camp could replace our existing art and music teachers - or - is the question about whether or not we could do even more partnering to add additional arts enrichment opportunities for our students? If the question is the former option presented, then "no" because we can only have certified teachers as the teacher of record. Additionally, the music teachers at elementary offer classroom teachers the opportunity to get their contractually-required prep time, and at the secondary level the art and music teachers provide important elective options for our students. If the question is the latter option presented, then "yes" as we are always open to additional meaningful opportunities to partner with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Could we remove the latches that prop open the outside doors?

    Posted by:

    We would need to check to see if there are any safety issues with removing the latches, but if not then yes we could. That being said, there are times when having the ability to prop open doors is important (e.g., copper art tooling with students). Perhaps the key is having practices where the last one in from recess makes sure the door is shut. We welcome feedback from schools on this topic.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can the district bill for mental health services through Medicaid?

    Posted by:

    Technically yes, the district could establish a process to bill services to Medicaid, and we have done this previously. The reason we stopped doing it was because it took significantly more staff time to process the Medicaid paperwork than we received in revenue. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Why can't we offer early retirement incentivies to all district employees and not just teachers?

    Posted by:

    This year we offered a retirement incentive for SEA members of $10,000. First, it is important to note that we did not offer an early retirement incentive to SEA members but rather a retirement incentive. Because retirement is regulated by the State of Alaska, early retirement is only something the State Legislature with state funding could offer. SESPA members have an existing retirement cash-out incentive in their contract. Specifically, SESPA members get paid for unused Sick Leave at the time of their retirement, which is unique to the SESPA contract and can equate to $10,000 or more. The SEA and Administrators contracts do have an early notification extra duty pay option ($2,500 and $2,000 respectfully); however, this is only if the retiring employee is willing to do extra work for the extra duty contract - it is not a cash incentive like SESPA currently has in their contract.

    Comments (-1)
  • Would creating parent-teacher-student associations in each school help to support the SSD budget?

    Posted by:

    We currently have Parent Advisory Committees (PACs) at each school, and over the years some have been active in raising funds for the school. The district can only accept funds for the Operating Budget from three sources - local, state, and federal. Donations other than those from governmental agencies go to specific funds associated with the source of revenue. In this situation the funds would go to the school's activity fund instead of the district's Operating Fund. The only way a local parent organization could contribute to the district's Operating Budget is if they entered into a legally-binding contract to provide a specific dollar amount that was then added to our Revenue during the budget process.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can the SHS Assistant Principal position also be the Activities Director?

    Posted by:

    The Assistant Principal at SHS used to be the Activities Director and it changed to two positions because of the workload at that time. Since that time we have added five additional student activities. The Board's Activities Committee recently looked at whether there could be a reduction in the number of activities and the decision was "no" because each activity offers a specific opportunity for students. Additionally, since the time that both jobs were filled by the same person, the Assistant Principal position has grown in its workload, such as the increased state requirements related to educator evaluations, which is a responsibility of the Assistant Principal. We had an unplanned check on this during the start of the 2016-17 school year when we did not have an Activities Director until mid-year, and it did not work to have one person do both positions even with a dedicated assistant to help with the clerical tasks.

    Comments (-1)
  • Given their prime location, can PHS students make/sell food during the summer with profits to SSD?

    Posted by:

    PHS has previously indicated interest in this type of opportunity; however, it wouldn't have an impact on our district's Operating Budget on either Revenues or the Expenditures. First is the Revenue side where the district can only accept funds for the Operating Budget from three sources - local, state, and federal. If PHS were to make and sell food items to the tourists in the summer months, the funds they collect would go to the PHS student activity fund. Secondly, which is the Expenditure side, the district's food service budget could not pay for the ingredients, so PHS would first need to raise funds to buy the ingredients to begin the process. Additionally, the income raised would not displace any expenditure from the district, as we do not routinely put Operating Funds into the PHS activity fund.

    Comments (-1)
  • Why can't elementary classroom teachers be responsible for teaching Science?

    Posted by:

    Elementary classroom teachers could teach Science; however, there is ample, credible research that indicates that the average elementary teacher does not have the confidence to teach Science, which tends to negatively impact Science education in the elementary grades. A workable solution for this reality is to develop Science kits for elementary teachers to use, which is what they do at Baranof. Keet currently does not have the Science kits developed. Additionally, the funding to pay for the Science teacher position at Keet comes from the Foundation Formula that has a factor requiring districts to have a Gifted and Talented program and district plan. The current state-approved Gifted and Talented Plan for Sitka Schools includes a Science/Gifted and Talented teacher at Keet.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can the schools be streamlined by restructuring grades and classes?

    Posted by:

    This is a complex question and we are not sure we are fully understanding it; however, one answer is that yes, in pockets we could restructure grades and classes, such as the K-2 discussions we have been having for the past year. That being said, all of this is a process and to date there have been no viable options presented including the possible K-2 consolidation or the possibility of changing the type of schedule at SHS.

    Comments (-1)
  • Long range - could we go to three buildings?

    Posted by:

    Long range yes if our enrollment continues to decline and we account for maximum occupancy for each building to comply with fire code and other regulations, as well as communicate clearly with the state to register our school buildings. The schools are City buildings, so all of this would need to be coordinated closely with the City.

    Comments (-1)
  • What is the cost of Community Schools?

    Posted by:

    No money comes from the district's Operating Budget to support Community Schools. The City gives the district $150,796 to support Community Schools. The district takes our costs, which are custodial and utilities off the top and then passes $100,000 on to the Community Schools contractor.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we freeze technology spending for one year?

    Posted by:

    All district budgets have had reductions in recent years including the Technology Budget that has seen a 20% reduction in the last four years. Currently, the Technology Budget pays for computers, online library and other instructional online resources, licensing fees, and technology maintenance supplies (e.g., replacement keyboards). Anything except the new computers would stop the functional use of the existing resources in the district, which is not an option. The only thing we could do is not purchase the renewal and replacement computers, which is currently slated next year to be student mobile carts in the schools. There was no renewal and replacement schedule in the district nine years ago and the state of the technology caused the students to request the school board to fix the problem, which they did with the renewal and replacement schedule. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we open negotiations with the unions to shave a few days off the calendar?

    Posted by:

    The district cannot compel any union to open negotiations. Additionally, our calendar for next year has already been approved by the school board, communicated to families, and is in process to be approved by the Commissioner of Education.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we turn the heat off for buildings in the summer?

    Posted by:

    Yes, and we do for buildings that are not occupied by summer programs.

    Comments (-1)