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Friday, November 5, 2021

Mayor Sullivan’s Appointees Don’t Want to Let the School District Spend Their Own Money

On August 3rd, there was a regular meeting of the Municipality Budget Advisory Commission.

(You remember, this is the commission that used to be two — the Budget Advisory Commission and the School Budget Advisory Commission. However, when the word “school” made people think twice about the appointment of one of the Mayor’s LGBT-hating wing-nutter friends, he just combined the commissions.)

Anyway, this was the first meeting with two of their newest mayoral appointees:

— The most-recently-appointed Amy Demboski, who has worked most of her career in dental offices, was appointed by Sean Parnell to The Commission on Judicial Conduct, and who was appointed to the Budget Advisory Commission at the last Assembly Meeting in July,

Schoolbus-following, twice-former Anchorage School Board Candidate Bob Griffin, appointed at the July 12th Assembly Meeting.

As the minutes of the meeting reflect, most of the meeting revolved around Anchorage School District issues. Much of that was about the proposed increase to the Anchorage School District’s spending authority for the 2011/2012 budget. The Alaska State Legislature in the last session increased money to ASD by $20 million. ASD simply needs the authority to spend it. Simple, right?

Not so much…

The BAC decided to form a “subcommittee” to determine whether the School District should be able to spend the money that already belongs to them. Leading the charge with the passion of a guy counting kids on a school bus, Bob Griffin. They presented their findings at a “special meeting” called at the taxpayers expense to specifically deal with this simple issue: should we allow the Anchorage School District to spend money that’s already theirs and can’t be used for anything else?

Naturally, the Mayor’s Budget Advisory Committee recommended “No” on $6 million of it.

Bob Griffin voiced concerns about the verbiage in ASD Memorandum #354 which states in bold letters that “No additional taxes are being requested to support this increase”; and while that may be the case right now, there is concern that may not be the case in the future.

Really? Last I checked, the Anchorage Assembly (with the Mayor’s approval) was the only way additional taxes could be raised for anything. Giving the ASD this one-time money now isn’t going to change that. Does Mr. Griffin think the School District has the ability to work the “Jedi Mind Trick” on the Assembly and get something through that would probably cause several Assembly Members to lose in the next election?

The sub-committee’s recommendation to not raise the spending authority to equal the amount of money granted by the state passed the full Committee 5 to 2.

According to the minutes and also reported by the Anchorage Daily News, the $6 million us to be used to add back in teacher positions that were cut as a result of budget shortfalls:

Comeau said the district will receive the state money no matter what and is just asking the Assembly to raise the spending limit by the same amount. She said the district was always clear it planned to use the energy money to reinstate positions for teachers and other staffers that were being cut. “With the full understanding it is one-time money. But every year is one time because we’re totally dependent on the Assembly and the Legislature for funding,” Comeau said.

New member Debroski also doesn’t seem get the whole “the Assembly and Mayor decides on property taxes” thing:

“We have serious concerns about this funding that was intended as a one-time stop-gap being used to support ongoing programs. Our fear is that the trajectory of the budget growth triggered by this state injection will be difficult to sustain by local taxpayers in the future,” said the measure passed by the commission.


According to Sean Cockerham, Debbie Ossiander “said she believes a majority of the Assembly members, including herself, won’t support the city Budget Advisory Commission’s recommendation when it comes before the Assembly at its meeting Tuesday night.” However, she also “does think the advisory commission has a position that can be justified and will receive some support on the Assembly.”

Sounds like it’s far from a “sure thing” that the Assembly will reject the Committee’s recommendation. Please attend Tuesday’s Meeting to testify or let the Assembly know what you think via email:



13 Responses to “Mayor Sullivan’s Appointees Don’t Want to Let the School District Spend Their Own Money”
  1. Durham says:

    The Republican (Koch Bros.) Plan for Educational Reform

    1. Slowly reduce State funding for schools

    2. Force local taxpayers to makeup the difference.

    3. Once local taxpayers are over burdened from local school taxes, offer school vouchers as an attractive alternative to help the local taxpayers.

    4. Keep the voulchers payment equal to the school costs for several years.

    5. Slowly allow voulchers payments to creep below school costs by not raising the vouchers to keep up with inflation, and by the legislators saying there is not enough money in the State budgets to increase the voulchers.

    6. Once the States burden for educations slowly decreases, lower taxes on businesses

  2. It’s totally asinine that Members of the Assembly would not allow the District to hire more teachers, essentially for free. Even Governor Parnell supports this funding. There was no state increase to the base student allocation for this new school year, so these funds help make up for that shortfall. I imagine we’ll get to see and hear Bob Griffin, Andy Clary and others whine about the size of the District’s budget tomorrow night, but I bet they won’t mention the lack of BSA increase, or the lack of property tax increase beyond inflation. They’ll just make some phony comparisons to the Lower 48, conveniently leaving out the sales taxes they pay in lieu of property taxes. It’s a sad state of affairs when losing politician wannabes are appointed and trusted by community leaders ( I’m staring at you, Dan Sullivan) and given a bullhorn stamped with the Municipal seal of approval.

  3. BeeJay says:

    Vouchers are touted as the best way to provide for an education (i.e. it allows for private schools to receive public funds), but there are issues.

    Here in Arizona there are a great many charter schools. These schools receive state funding for each student enrolled, and are given the same amount as a public school receives for their students. All operating and capital expenses of the charter school come out of these funds: no taxation authority of course, so what you do get, is all you get. Make it on the state funding, or die.

    Up to a certain point, this actually works well. Where the differences begin to show is in the facilities, and quality and number of teachers. Class size can be large (no different from pub. schools actually), and teaching staff with more duties and less pay & benefits than even the public schools. The school buildings themselves are often re-purposed from another use, and maintenance is not a top priority – because there is little money left over for it.

    Here is the major drawback: the amount of the vouchers depends entirely on the state legislature. For the last two years running they have cut the amount per student, forcing the schools to cut back even further. The costs of running the schools is not declining, so instead what is left is declining quality of education. I have a family member who teaches at a charter school known for its’ high academic standards and quality education. She has had to deal with supply shortages, a greater workload, and less funding for her department budget. “It’s not fun anymore, it’s a pain in the ass,” to paraphrase her. Summer before last she didn’t even get her summer paychecks: there was no money left, and she had to tap her savings and retirement funds to keep her house paid up and food on the table. It was not a happy summer.

    Public vouchers are no panacea for the nation’s education ills in any shape or form. We get what we pay for, and since no Repubs want to pay for schools, we won’t get much at all in the end.

    Take ASD independent of the City. That way Slippery Dan is well away from the schools – which it sounds like they really need to be.

  4. bubbles says:

    a little off thread but about another school district desperately fighting Koch/Teabaggers and White supremest school board in another state.

  5. Bob Benner says:

    We all know it’s a lot easier putting a baby on a teet, than trying later to pull him off… Avoiding putting the baby on the teet in the first place will save us from having to listen to the screaming/whiniing baby when we can’t afford to let it continue feeding on the teet later… I support the advisory committees recommendations…

  6. Thank you for your insight, Jeff.

    And Memaw…Danny Boy saw the dollar signs…

  7. Memaw says:

    So Danny Boy drank the kool-aide?

    Your mother would be ashamed of you, Dan Sullivan.

  8. Durham says:

    This just seems like another out reach by the Koch brothers on the Republican party. The State Republicans have forced school districts to do the same with with less money which means the local taxpayers are being forced to make up the difference. The Republican party has also been trying to make schools private with the State providing vouchers for private schools. Chances are high in my opinion the vouchers will meet the costs for the school early on, but will eventually start to trickle below the costs of the schools because of inflation and the relunctance of the legislature to increase the amount of the vouchers. This is similar to what State legislatures said about lottery money only going towards education. In the begining it did, but eventually they started to lower the amount of the States provided to schools districts relying on lottery funds to make up the difference. Similar to the lotteries, State legislatures will lower what they provide to vouchers creating a greater difference between what the vouchers provide and the amount parents will be responsible for The poor will eventually not be able to afford to pay for their childrens education once the difference becomes too large. Just another separation between the rich and the poor. This to me is just another evil means of cutting taxes and hurting the poor and middleclass. The first I heard of the idea was with Governer Bush from Florida, and after a few years of hearing nothing, our new Govenor Scott is again bringing up vouchers along with other other new Republican govenors.

  9. WinBeach says:

    Maybe we should consider becoming an ‘independent’ school district and cut out these politically-motivated middlemen who we did NOT elect and who haven’t passed any test as to their ability to grasp the nuances of their job.

    I thought the state funds were to pay the ASD for the higher costs of energy. No matter, it seems this budget advisory group is only advisory according to their name and thank goodness for that.

    But what is most troublesome is that Mayor Danny’s appointees for many of the boards and commissions are not educated as to their jobs, the laws they are bound to uphold and certainly not about how they have to leave their personal views behind.

    The only good thing that can come out of the budget advisory committee is that it allows us to see how truly stupid those guys are and maybe, like our half-gov, they will put their foot in their mouth so many times before next April that we will not make the same mistake–and actually vote them into some elected position.

    And this whole mess shows us how much we need to teach logic in our schools–starting first with the Assembly and the 8th floor of city hall.

  10. John says:

    Assembly e-mail: goes to all assembly members. But of course, let them know whose district you are in since some pay more attention to people who might vote in their next election. If you don’t live in Anchorage, you can always mention that students move around a lot, and you want to continue getting well-educated transfer students from Anchorage. 🙂

  11. Jeff says:

    Under state law, the legislature provides money to school districts. Also under state law, local government is required to contribute an amount between the minimum and maximum limits set by the legislature. The Anchorage School District has always been dependent on those two legislative bodies to decide its revenue for each year. That’s why ASD is a “dependent” school district unlike the majority of districts elsewhere that have independent taxing authority. As far back as I can remember, ASD has always produced a balanced budget based on the revenue provided to it, and has always lived within its budget.

    ASD has lots of experience handling one time funds. The legislature frequently ends the session with one time money for education because figuring out how to add it to the funding formula is complex and fraught with political (rural vs urban) concerns. The stimulus money was one time funding. Grant money is one time funding. Our 6 year financial plan recognizes this by projecting a variety of different revenue scenarios and stating that spending will be adjusted to match what ever revenue comes in.

    Also, another complicating factor is that districts have limits on how much they can save. If their undesignated fund balance is more than 10% of their general fund budget, they have to turn the excess back to the state. And you can’t stick money into a designated fund balance for general operating costs. So its not like ASD can just increase classroom size (cut teacher positions) and use the money for salaries next year to avoid more cuts.

    Turning down one time money is like telling the person who shows up at the soup kitchen door: “I’m sorry, although we have plenty of food today, I can’t feed you because you might expect more food tomorrow and we don’t know whether we will have any food tomorrow.”

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