News from Patrick Flynn

School rules?

On Friday, March 20, the Assembly held a joint work session with the Anchorage School Board, something we do roughly once a quarter.  The primary topic of discussion was the proposed ASD budget, already approved by the School Board and scheduled before the Assembly at our March 24 meeting.

My first personal involvement with the question of Assembly approval of the school district’s budget came years ago as a member of the Salaries & Emoluments commission, the Anchorage Charter-defined entity that sets salaries for the mayor and members of the Assembly and School Board.  The previous commission hadn’t made much progress dealing with a couple issues, most notably the disparity between compensation of Assembly and School Board members.  The latter group contended that, because the ASD budget was larger and had more employees they should certainly be paid as well as Assembly members, while the former pointed out that they approved both city and school district budgets.

Why, I wondered?  Because the charter says so, is the short answer, but I wanted to have a clearer picture.  Fortunately for me Frank Reed, who chaired Anchorage’s Charter commission, lived nearby so I asked him for more information.  He explained that the commission wanted one entity, the Assembly, responsible for setting tax levels in Anchorage.  By giving Assembly authority to approve the school district’s budget, thereby setting mill rates, fiscal responsibility was vested in one entity.  Given that, the Salaries & Emoluments commission followed the lead of its predecessors and maintained the pay differential between the two bodies (though both earn relatively small stipends).

Fast forward to the present and the situation is thus: as the Assembly and acting Mayor continue to cut municipal spending there are several members who will not vote for the ASD budget unless it is reduced.  In fact, I don’t believe the necessary six votes are there unless and until some level of reduction is achieved.  That said, it appears the charter dictates that, should the Assembly fail to come to an agreement on the school district budget, the version approved by the School Board goes into effect.  And, keep in mind the Assembly can’t tell the school district how to spend its money, only how much it can spend.  The discussion over the next few days and at our Tuesday meeting will be how much the Assembly will approve.



This contribution was made on Saturday, 21. March 2009 at 16:00 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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