Education funding supporters dominate budget discussion at Mat-Su Borough meeting

Members of the public sit in on a special Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting dedicated to public testimony and discussion of the coming year's budget on April 30, 2019.
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) — In Palmer, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly held an open meeting on Tuesday to hear more public testimony regarding the coming year's budget.

"What we're talking about is how the Mat-Su Borough deals with the upcoming budget," said Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey. "The state will have some effect, but this is about our operation, and how the borough charges citizens for the services we provide."

Dozens of community members signed up to share their thoughts on the budget. Many of them were parents, teachers and administrators within the borough school district.

"Your financial decisions now will impact students in the Valley for years to come," one parent said, expressing concern about potential cuts to education funding.

Public input is being welcomed by the borough, which is grappling with a potential loss of $19.5 million in revenue from the state, Moosey said.

"This is really their opportunity to address the Assembly," he said, "before they make a decision on the budget."

Peter Olson, a parent and a teacher at Academy Charter School, testified at the Tuesday meeting — the second of three scheduled this week.

"Our greatest resource is our human potential, and the way we reach that potential is through education," Olson said.

One woman said she was specifically worried about losing more teachers, saying she doesn't know "how we can support kids the way we do if we lose more teachers."

The discussion tilted in favor of school funding Tuesday, as it reportedly also did at a Monday meeting, according to Moosey. Still, not everyone is in agreement, and the topic remains open for discussion.

"Really, this is your chance," Moosey said, "and I know my seven Assembly members really are trying to do the will of the people."

The third and last scheduled meeting, during which members of the public may submit testimony, will take place at the Willow Community Center on Thursday, May 2, at 6 p.m.

To hear the full audio of the Monday and Tuesday meetings and to learn more about the meeting on Thursday, visit the Mat-Su Borough webpage.

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