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Juneau schools: Uncharted budget crisis sparked by accounting mishaps.

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Juneau school administrators are facing a severe budget shortfall partly related to flat state funding and declining enrollment.

The city’s school board learned Tuesday that the district is projected to be $7.6 million in deficit for the current fiscal year and carrying over a $1.9 million shortfall from the prior fiscal year. The combined $9.5 million deficit equates to roughly 10% of the district’s total budget, and it’s expected to keep ballooning.

Juneau’s former administrative services director, Cassee Olin, resigned last month after a November budget audit found the district was $7 million in deficit

Pearce said staffing costs had been understated by $5 million. Retirement costs were “mischaracterized” as revenues instead of expenditures and undercounted by $1.5 million, she said.

Enrollment was also expected to be 83 students below earlier projections, which was expected to cause $870,000 less in funding from the state, she said.

Some of Juneau’s school funding challenges have been seen across Alaska. Other districts have reported strained finances from the end of COVID-19 relief, declining enrollment and years of flat state funding.

David Noon, a school board member, said he was “incandescent with rage” about the errors and questioned how they weren’t noticed. School Board President Deedie Sorensen said she was “extraordinarily upset” about the district’s budget situation.

Pearce urged board members to look forward, but she didn’t think it was mathematically possible to resolve the structural deficit in one year.

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