$812 million schools budget gets Anchorage Assembly OK

Rosemary Shinohara

The Anchorage Assembly late Tuesday night approved an $811.9 million school budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

That compares to a 2010-2011 budget of $789.4 million.

The vote was 10-1 with Assembly member Bill Starr of Eagle River opposed. Starr held up a photo of a road grader -- used to plow out bus lanes and driveways, according to schools superintendent Carol Comeau. But Starr asked whether the mission of the district is too broad when it includes use of heavy equipment. He also criticized the district's fiscal planning.

The majority of school funding comes from the state, but city property taxes will pay for $237.6 million of it.

The School Board approves what's in the budget, and the Assembly votes on the overall dollar amount allowed, and the amount of property taxes.

Most Assembly members said they supported the budget because it fell within parameters they had set out in advance through a resolution.

The resolution limited any increase in property taxes for schools to 1.6 percent, which amounts to $3 million. The city also transferred some expenses that had previously been paid by municipal government, for example, shifting the full cost of Anchorage Police Department officers based in schools to the district. The cost had been shared. The net increase in property taxes after city expenses were transferred was $1.1 million.

The district plans to increase class sizes slightly to offset rising costs of its programs.