A sign announcing the closure of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools at K-Beach Elementary can be seen on March 26, 2020, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign announcing the closure of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools at K-Beach Elementary can be seen on March 26, 2020, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly OKs at least $45M for schools

Assembly approved $7 million less than the district received for FY 2020.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted unanimously at their Tuesday meeting to contribute at least $45 million to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget.

The amount of money the district will receive from the borough isn’t finalized yet, but the assembly’s actions on Tuesday ensure that the district will receive at least $45 million from the borough.

The borough, which is the second biggest funder of the district behind the state, told district administration earlier this year that they intended to fund the district to the max at $52,776,437. But, with a drop in oil prices, projected declines in tax revenues and other financial hits related to the global pandemic, the borough assembly offered the district $7 million less than the district received for FY 2020.

The request for $52 million from the borough would be a $264,382 increase from 2020 spending. At this funding level, the district could hire elementary school counselors and additional special education intensive needs teachers, an April 7 letter from acting superintendent of the district, Dave Jones, to the borough assembly said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved the district’s budget at their meeting April 6, and passed it onto the assembly, requesting the maximum allowable contribution from the borough, $52,776,473. The budget passed by the school board gives the district a total budget of $157,104,246.

Money from the state and the borough make up nearly all of the revenue the district receives — 99% — with the state funding about 62% and the borough funding about 37%.

The state uses a foundation formula of $5,930 per student to allocate costs for districts. The district is expecting that same flat funding from the state for the FY 2021 budget, which is the same level of funding the district received from the Alaska Legislature for the last four years. Revenues for the district from the state, based on the student allocation, are projected to be around $77 million.

Assembly members Tyson Cox and Jesse Bjorkman announced potential conflicts of interest before voting on approving the $45 million budget floor for the district. Cox’s wife works for the district and Bjorkman is a teacher at Nikiski Middle/High School. Assembly President Kelly Cooper deemed that neither assembly member had a conflict because the money for the district did not directly impact salaries.

The assembly will begin their budget process at their next meeting, May 5. During the budget process, the assembly will have the opportunity to raise school district funding above $45 million. The borough’s entire budget will be finalized in June.

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