780 AM | 96.1 FM | “Yours for Western Alaska”

Nome School Board Approves 2018 Budget Amid Concerns Over State Funding

Shawn Arnold gives a budget presentation

At Tuesday’s Nome Public School (NPS) board meeting, fiscal year 2018’s budget stood alone as the single topic of conversation.

With a whole work session dedicated to one topic, Superintendent Shawn Arnold started the meeting with a legislative review. He first drew attention to the current price of oil. “About this time last year, we were at about 30 dollars per barrel of oil. However, the scary thing is that, even if the state has more revenue than last year, that production is declining.”

Arnold suggests that despite recent discoveries of new oil fields, low investments in decreased production could void the effects of higher oil prices. Arnold speculates that higher-priced oil may not bring in as much revenue for the state as expected, which could have an adverse impact upon school funding.

90% of state revenue is tied to oil taxes, and Arnold says it covers 30% of state expenses. Therefore, the Alaska House and Senate will possibly look to restructure the Permanent Fund Dividend to pay for state operations.

Proposed legislation could reduce the PFD, increase funding for online learning, take away the Alaska Performance Scholarship, and impose a state-wide curriculum, amongst other proposed solutions. Midnight Wednesday marked the end of the legislative session. Arnold expects it to be extended into May, possibly for an additional 31 days.

The Nome Youth Facility, whose defunding added $400,000 to Nome Public Schools’ deficit, has reached no permanent conclusion, either.

A possible extension of Alaska’s legislative session is the last set of growing pains for next year’s NPS budget. Staff members whose positions could be consolidated during the budget process will be given pink slips before legislation guaranteeing final budget amounts are approved. For instance, if legislation keeping the Nome Youth Facility open passes after the deadline for telling staff they don’t have a position, NPS might be letting go of staff members the budget can actually afford.

Given those conditions, the board moved to approve the final draft of the 2018 fiscal year budget. The budget will be up for approval by the city council by the end of the month. After Alaska’s legislative session ends, and funding amounts are 100% certain, the budget can be edited.

The next school board meeting is April 25th in the Nome Elementary School Library. The next city council meeting is next Monday, April 24th.