AVCP Hires More VPSOs As State Lawmakers Debate Budget

Credit Skip Gray / 360 North

Lawmakers failed to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line item vetoes last week. Now, as the Legislature figures out how to fund vital state programs, organizations in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are doing the same. The Association of Village Council Presidents is examining alternatives to fund programs like Head Start.

In the middle of a statewide budget fight, AVCP has  good news: the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta now has 10 village public safety officers. That’s the maximum allowed under state funding.

Just a month ago, there were only six VPSOs to police 48 villages. To put that in perspective, a recent report says that one in three rural Alaskan communities doesn’t have any kind of law enforcement at all.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has vetoed $3 million in 2020 fiscal year funding for the VPSO program in addition to funding for fiscal year 2019. AVCP had planned to use that funding to establish a program allowing VPSOs to rotate among villages. 

Meanwhile, the Head Start program for pre-kindergarten students is in danger of losing its federal matching grants. Dunleavy eliminated state funding, which jeopardizes Head Start’s federal matching funds. AVCP, along with other organizations overseeing Head Start in Alaska, must come up with 20 percent of the cost through non-federal funds. 

"There is significant concern across the State, and timing is really important because we’re ramping up for the next round of Head Start enrollment.”  said AVCP CEO Vivian Korthuis in a statement. 

AVCP Director of Communications Azara Mohemmadi says that the organization isa looking at alternatives. That includes a waiver from the federal government, and help from Sen. Lisa Murkowski through the Alaska Federation of Natives. 

AVCP is still accepting enrollment applications for its existing Head Start programs. 

Meanwhile in education, the University of Alaska’s board of regents delayed a vote on declaring financial exigency, which would allow expedited cost-cutting. The vote is now scheduled for their next meeting at the end of July.