City Council and School Board Prepare for ‘Worst-Case’ Scenario as Budget Deadlines Draw Near

Exterior of Nome Elementary School, an off-white building with a smiling polar bear as its mascot.

As budget deadlines approach, the Nome City Council has held multiple work sessions to discuss funding — including a joint work session on Monday with the Nome Public Schools Board of Education.

The school board is asking for a city contribution of $3 million for the next fiscal year. Without an approved state budget, the city and school district have to plan for a “worst case scenario”: a loss of almost $300,000 to the school district if the state closes the Nome Youth Facility. The Nome Youth Facility is considered part of the Nome Public Schools and funds the district for an extra fourteen students.

If that funding is lost, the only positions lost for the 2019-2020 school year would be current Nome Youth Facility staff.

The City increased its contribution to the schools for FY 2019 by over half a million dollars. That three-million-dollar total allowed an elementary school reading specialist, a junior high counselor, and full time Behavior Specialists at both the elementary school and high school to be funded. Without that extra contribution, NPS says those positions would have been cut this year.

Even though it means using money from the City’s fund balance, no one on the Council objected to the school board’s request Monday night. For City Manager John Handeland, it’s simply an investment.

“We can have a generational growth as we move forward by taking care of the kids at a young age now.”

If the State Legislature votes to keep the Nome Youth Facility, Superintendent Jamie Burgess says the extra funds can go to hiring more class aides and restoring previous cuts. At this time, Burgess says there is no plan to eliminate any high school staffing positions.

No action was taken in Monday night’s work session. The City Council will be voting on and approving the Fiscal Year 2020 budget in June.

Image at top: Exterior of Nome Elementary School, August 22, 2018. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM file.