The Arctic Sounder

Northwest Arctic school officials plan to cut additional meals and middle school sports to balance budget deficit

Education officials in the Northwest Arctic discussed last week cuts to middle school sports programs, additional meals and curriculum supplies to address the $9.3 million budget deficit.

Last month, the Northwest Arctic Borough School District rolled out a survey to see what programs and services the public values the most and in which areas they should make budget cuts. More than 640 people — including students, staff, parents and residents — responded to the survey. Based on those responses, the district put together a plan for cuts and held a public hearing last Tuesday to gather feedback on it.

Officials plan to reduce seconds for meals to save $251,840, middle school sports to save $252,000, staff workdays to save $272,208 and curriculum supplies to save $32,241.

The board has until May 1 to adopt a balanced budget. They were going to vote to adopt the budget at the regular meeting on April 30.

This plan for cuts comes in addition to the $4.7 million reduction the district already made to reduce the deficit from over $14 million. In the previous round of reductions, they cut six district office positions and 10 teaching positions. They also cut one Alaska Reads Act position and removed six positions from operating funds into grant funds.

There was no change in staffing for Deering, Kobuk and Shungnak, said Terri Walker, the district superintendent. In Ambler, Buckland, Kotzebue’s June Nelson Elementary, Kivalina, Noatak, Noorvik and Selawik, one position was reduced. Kotzebue Middle High had two positions reduced, and Kiana had three positions reduced.

The district also reduced staff travel and professional development programs and is working to reduce its health plan costs by offering a stipend to staff members who have other forms of insurance to opt out of the district’s health insurance plan.


The current budget includes breakfast and lunch provided to all students and High School Student Activities district-wide. Classroom sizes will also remain the same, unless the district sees changes to their projections.

“If the state doesn’t approve an increase to the base student allocation we’ll have the school district will have to look at another revision and more reduction.” Williams said.

Earlier in April, the Alaska House advanced the operating budget with $175 million in extra one-time school funding. The increase would be the equivalent of the $680 boost to the Base Student Allocation, for one year. A long-term increase is discussed as part of House Bill 392, currently in the finance committee.

The Northwest Arctic School District district plans for a $300 increase to BSA and plans to use a $1.5 million contribution from NANA as well as $4.9 million from their general fund balance.

“It is balanced,” Megan Williams, director of administrative services, said about the current budget, “however, we are balancing the budget using our fund balance.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.