District faces loss of 75 teachers

Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Kenai Peninsula school board got it’s first look at next year’s budget during a work session prior to Monday’s meeting, and members were not happy with what they saw: a $2.1 million deficit and elimination of 75 positions.

“The idea of losing 75 teachers is a truly frightening scenario,” said board member Sammy Crawford in her remarks at the conclusion of the board meeting.

Melody Douglas, the district’s financial officer, walked the board through the initial draft of the fiscal year 2008 budget, which covers the 2007-08 school year.

The draft budget includes $113.4 million in expenditures, an increase of $16.8 million from this year. The biggest increase is salaries and benefits, which, at $88.6 million, is $13.7 million more than this year and includes retirement system contributions.

The projected budget also reflects other increases to the district, such as rising utility costs.

The draft budget calls for cutting 15 positions due to declining enrollment, and another 60 positions due to budget constraints, a move that would increase the district’s pupil:teacher ratio by four.

Douglas prefaced her comments during Monday’s work session by telling board members the budget will change quite a bit as the process moves along, particularly as the Legislature addresses bills related to school funding.

“The budget conversation is a fluid conversation. This is a work in progress. This is not the final conversation,” Douglas said.

The school had a joint budget work session with the borough assembly Tuesday, and a series of public forums are scheduled. Budget information will be presented to the public at Seward High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m., at Kenai Central High School on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., and at Homer High School on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.

Another board work session on the budget is scheduled for Feb. 5.

“It’s a little downheartening every year when we start to look at the budget,” said board president Debra Mullins as she summarized the work session during Monday’s meeting. “It’s always a scary time of year.”

Board member Marty Anderson cautioned that just because funding frequently is found and some major cuts are avoided doesn’t mean the board is crying wolf at the start of each budget cycle.

“When we’ve thrown the Hail Mary pass into the end zone, we’ve been fortunate that our team has come down with the ball,” Anderson said.

In other business, the school board approved revisions to the calendar for the 2007-08 school year, moving the end of the first semester to Dec. 21, and amended and approved revisions to school policy regarding alcohol and other drugs, and administration of medication during the school day.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

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