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Dillingham City Council approves school district’s request for $1.3 million after considering cuts

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KDLG
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Dillingham Elementary School

Money is tight at the City of Dillingham, but the council listened to school staff and parents who asked it not to reduce education funding this year.

For nearly a decade, the city has provided the school district with $1.3 million dollars a year. The school asked for the same amount for the upcoming school year. However, earlier in the week, the Dillingham City Council posted that it would consider allocating just over $1 million to the school district. That’s a reduction of about $220,000 from recent years.

Council members said they received a flurry of phone calls from parents and school staff who were concerned that the reduction in funding would be catastrophic for the school district.

The council updated the resolution before it met on Thursday for a vote. The updated resolution included the full $1.3 million that Dillingham Schools requested.

City manager Robert Mawson said in a memo, which he read aloud at Thursday’s meeting, that he had spoken with Jason Johnson, the Dillingham School District superintendent. After their conversations, he recommended the city fund the school with $1.3 million.

“We determined the following: for every $100,000 reduction in local funding and support the school district would see an additional reduction in State Impact Aid of approximately $56,269," said Mawson. “Taking the entire $221,312 reduction into account, the School District would have to accommodate a negative budget impact of approximately $345,666 for next fiscal year.”

Mawson assured council members that he is confident that the city can accommodate the school’s entire funding request “without jeopardizing our primary goals and objectives.”

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Avery Lill, KDLG
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Nicole Taylor, the special education director for Dillingham City School District, supported the city's decision to provide $1.3 million to the schools for the upcoming school year.

Half a dozen staff and parents from Dillingham City Schools spoke at the council meeting. They thanked the council for updating the resolution to maintain its level of funding to the school. They also emphasized that any reduction in funding would have a significant impact on students.

Johnson underscored the gravity of the proposed reduction in funding. He said it would have been equivalent to four certified teaching positions.

“Students with disabilities, students in minorities, and students in impoverished homes. Those are the kids that have the greatest impact when we reduce the education funding. Those kids suffer the most any time we pull back our academic programs,” said Johnson.

The superintendent noted that the proposed reduction in funding would also have been roughly equivalent to the student activities budget.

“And we know in our community, that's not an option–impacting our student’s sports programs, not an option at all,” said Johnson.

The council voted unanimously to approve $1.3 million for Dillingham City Schools. Still, some council members expressed concern that the city’s funding is tight and that it should redouble its efforts to increase revenue.

Even as she urged council members to approve the $1.3 million in funding for the school district, Mayor Alice Ruby said, “I'm kind of afraid for the City of Dillingham…every council meeting, we see more vacant positions, wage cuts… I really want to hold all of our feet to the fire and not put us in this position next year.”

The other item on the council’s agenda Thursday passed unanimously and without public comment. The city adopted a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana brought into Dillingham.