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With State Funding in Limbo, Nome Public Schools Presents 2025 Budget to City

Nome-Beltz Middle High School sits amongst snow as temporary fixes to an aging roof cause persistent trouble for maintenance crews. KNOM stock photo.
Nome-Beltz Middle High School sits amongst snow as temporary fixes to an aging roof cause persistent trouble for maintenance crews. KNOM stock photo.

April 10, 2024

Ben Townsend, News Director

At a Nome City Council meeting held on Monday, April 8, Jamie Burgess, Superintendent of Nome Public Schools (NPS), laid out the financial landscape facing the district as it prepares for the upcoming fiscal year. With the state of Alaska’s contributions still in limbo, the district is navigating through uncertain waters to finalize its budget that is due to the City of Nome in just three weeks. 

During the session held in the Nome City Hall meeting room, Burgess discussed figures and graphs included in a draft of the budget plan displayed on two large wall-mounted TVs. This version of the budget presented to the City Council for the fiscal year of 2025 totalled $16,491,609, a sum that is $12,172 less than the budget for the 2024 fiscal year. NPS is requesting $3.4 million from the City of Nome, an increase of $200,000 from the previous fiscal year as uncertainty looms over other funding sources. 

Burgess underscored the precarious situation, noting that $400,000 in one-time funding expected from an increase in base student allotment (BSA) funds from the state could fluctuate dramatically, potentially even to zero. The proposed $680 per student increase in the BSA was included in the SB140 education package vetoed by Governor Mike Dunleavy just two weeks ago. 

From the ashes of SB140 rises House Bill 392, which is now working its way through the state legislature. The new bill includes the $680 increase to the BSA but has seen provisions for teacher bonuses stripped, a provision that Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage believed should be removed to move the bill forward as it’s a “controversial” topic among lawmakers. The revised bill also includes measures for the state to establish a charter school, something that Gov. Dunleavy has requested to be included in the bill to earn his signature.

The district has a “significant” amount of cash reserves according to Burgess, including a capital improvement fund designated for projects like a roof replacement for Nome-Beltz Middle High School that has been on the district’s wish list for some time. The roof project is expected to cost the district around $2 million but unless a new funding source can be found, Burgess noted that it’s “not in the cards for 2024.”

Addressing operational costs, Burgess noted significant investments in personnel and the escalating expenses of energy, health insurance, and property liability. In response to tightening budgets, unfilled vacancies, and rising expenses NPS has eliminated some positions over the years that they hope to return in “Budget Scenario #3” of the draft budget. This third budget option could be described as a best-case-scenario that would require additional funding from the State of Alaska Foundation. New roles in this option include a Music Teacher and School Nurse at Nome Elementary School as well as other district-wide support staff. 

NPS is scheduled to formally adopt their final FY 2025 budget at a special session on April 23 and has until May 1 to submit their budget to the City of Nome, who will then have 30 days to provide a statement of the amount being made available from the city. In the current draft, NPS hopes to receive $3.4 million, however the city may authorize up to $3,799,665 in accordance with city law. 

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