How deep is hole in Anchorage School District’s budget? A look in the seat cushions

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By DAVID BOYLE

We have heard that the Anchorage School District is suffering from a huge budget hole of $95 million brought on mostly by using one-time federal funds to pay for recurring costs, such as salaries and benefits.

But really, how deep is this budget hole?  

Let’s look at the facts.  

Many of these facts are found in the ASD’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report which contains myriad financial data.  This is an audited report that has been approved by the school board. The most recent AFCR covers the period July 2022-June 2023.   

The most startling information in the report is that the district really doesn’t have a budget hole.  

As a matter of fact, it has $118,892,417 as an unreserved balance in its general fund. The general fund funds day-to-day operations of the district. This is the district’s piggy bank that holds unallocated money that can be used for almost anything.

Current year expenditures in the general fund total $551,825,263.  These numbers can be seen on page 268, Table AD of the ACFR:

So, the ASD has an unreserved balance of 21.55%, ($118,892,417/$551,825,263), far exceeding the 8% balance set by the school board’s policy. An 8% balance would be $44,146,021. The excess surplus (above the 8%) is $74,746,396.

The board could even set the minimum unreserved balance at 5% which would be $27,591,263, leaving enough to backfill the so-called $95 million budget hole.

Because the State doesn’t want school districts to hoard money in their reserve funds, it sets a cap of 10% unreserved funds balance under the Public School Foundation Formula policy. But the State has waived this 10% fund balance cap through fiscal year 2025 due to Covid.

Why does the ASD have such a large unspent balance of money in its piggy bank?

The district says that the very large unreserved funds balance is due to higher than normal vacancy rates and attrition rates.  The fewer students, the less the need for teachers and thus the lower the costs.

But wait, there is even more money in the ASD seat cushions.

The district could save about $50 million by not rebuilding the Inlet View School.  

Or if it remodeled the school at a cost of $24 million, it would still save nearly $26 million.

But wait, there’s even more money in the ASD seat cushions. 

At its Dec. 5 meeting, the board will vote on a new teachers’ contract.  This will provide a 3% raise to AEA teacher union members. This would add considerably to the overall cost of salaries and benefits, which accounts for 85% of the district’s operating budget.

Additionally, the district has “negotiated” to provide an increase of $150 monthly to the teachers’ union members for healthcare. This would bring the cost to the taxpayer to $22,800 per year per union member for healthcare insurance. 

With approximately 3,000 members, the Anchorage teachers’ union would add another $5.4 million to the district’s cost.

So, maybe the budget hole isn’t as deep as the district and school board say.  Maybe, just maybe, the district has enough money hidden in its seat cushions to backfill the hole.  But instead, the school wants you to think the hole is huge—and it can only be filled by the state legislature giving them more of your money, including your PFD.  

You can testify in person or provide written testimony at the ASD school board meeting this Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 6 pm.  

Here is a link to sign up to testify.

23 COMMENTS

  1. With the notable exception of Mr Donley, all other board members have shown themselves to be liars and thieves. Rather than giving more money, the state should take over the mess made by these child haters just like they did in Houston when they cleaned up after Bryantt. The future of education for our children looks very dim with these deceptive and incompetent liars making decisions and policies.

  2. Equally telling is Anchorage parents know what they’re getting. And yet there is no organization dedicated to doing the work the fundamentally change the school board

    Didn’t Anchorage have a post Covid election and nothing changed in the school board?

    At this point one has to assume Anchorage as a while approves of this “education” system. Or worse, can’t be bothered to even care.

    • I am sure this is not just in Anchorage, people. Look in your own backyard. The school districts are so money-oriented that we would be better off starting from scratch. CRT, sexualizing kids and myriad of other items not cureable unless the school districts can prove and perform said cures. I challange the districts, but I know they won’t take that challenge. It’s not bad enough yet, obviously or parents would be demanding the next right change!

  3. It Does no good to publish our unhappiness with the ASD hoarding funds. When the clowns in Juneau meet they will come to the ASD on bended knee and ask if doubling last years budget will be enough to get them through the year.

  4. And yet, Anchorage voters continue to put the same (or like same) people on the school board. I don’t know how Mr Donley is able to sit at the table with them! Also, the superintendent and his entourage continue to bemoan the financial crisis and the need for more money and UNSATISFACTORY results for our students!!

    • I don’t doubt Donley hold good relationships with the Democrat leaders/ neighbors who of his district community, and he doesn’t alienate one side over another side. I bet he learned early in his life since childhood how to build relationships and keep them. You ever seen an adult or a child they can make friends with any one around and those friends -most of them except that one who alienate others- can make friends with them. They know how to personalize themselves to others different. Donely seems like that type of man and his chosen spouse his wife will complement him and equal be easily received by people around them. Nothing phoney nothing abrupt to cause people distrust or dislike them.

  5. Never have met a wealthy man who doesn’t scream poverty. It’s the ones who claim to be wealthy that are actually worthless. The school district will once again threaten to cut inexpensive but meaningful programs in order to feed their bloat with your vote. And expensive TV adds brought to you by your tax dollars. Groundhog Day.

    • Your first line reminds me of a well-off brother-in-law who would go around complaining about his business and finances for several weeks. This was right before he made a major purchase of a new motor home or something similar. Since it happened several times, we would laugh and say, oh boy, he must be worried that someone will try to get money from him when we see what he can afford. So he had to make a big show of his lack of funds.

  6. Sending your child to public schools is considered child abuse by many. Don’t give ASD an another dime.

  7. ASD is acting responsibly in maintaining cash reserves, if vacancies were filled the surplus would be far less. Governor Dunleavy on the other hand wanted to spend PF reserves on the fallacy that markets rise forever and vetoed school funding from cash reserves. Mayor Bronson also does not understand that not funding vacancies and contracting out servics is a downward spiral. I oppose a new Inlet School also, but Boyle is knowingly mixing bonded funds with cash reserves to confuse MRAK readers

    • Oh “ Frank”…

      Only in a liberal mind is hoarding cash while demanding the taxpayers pony up more, while their services are less than useless,

      While a that being fiscally responsible.

      Tell me, do you donate your PDF to the ASD? To state government? Or do you spend it? Hummmm?

  8. ASD is a business ran by people who couldn’t run a popsicle stand.
    They will steal and lie to get what they want.
    Why do they need so many principles and teacher advisors?
    Sounds like wasting taxpayer dollars.

  9. How many porta potties does that come out to? I think ALL of Anchorage’s taxes and funding needs to go to them homeless “campers”..After hearing a KTUU (assembly/city propaganda) story asking a bum what they think the city should do to fight bumedness, I got whip lash form shaking my head. Is the city responsible for my chiropractic bill???

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