The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed an amendment to the FY 2020 budget to increase funding for Kenai Peninsula College at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mayor Charlie Pierce’s proposed budget includes $800,000 for the Kenai Peninsula College, a $17,755 decrease from the FY 2019 budget.
The reduced allocation diverges from the formula that has been used in the past to calculate funding for the college.
Since 1992, the borough has provided KPC with over $12 million via a 1/10th mill rate assessed on property values, according to a March resolution from the borough supporting the Kenai Peninsula College.
Assembly member Hal Smalley introduced the amendment asking that the post-secondary budget be increased to the 1/10th mill rate — from $800,000 to $847,186 — after members of the community provided testimony about the importance of funding the college.
“We’ve heard this evening of the benefit of that funding that goes to KPC — Homer campus as well as the extension site in Seward,” Smalley said.
Cheryl Siemers, Kenai Peninsula College’s assistant director for academic affairs, spoke in support of increasing the post-secondary budget to meet the 1/10th mill rate.
“Your dollars help us fund a place rich with education for these students so they don’t have to leave,” Siemers said. “They can get a quality education that I would say exceeds other locations.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough and the city of Valdez are the only municipalities that provide funding for their college campuses. Borough contributions have helped fund programs like an adult GED program and Jump Start, a tuition waiver program for high school students.
During the public testimony, several employees, former students and community members also spoke in support of college funding.
Julie Cottrell has been attending Kenai Peninsula College since she was a student at Homer High School in the 1990s. After high school graduation, Cottrell said she was encouraged to attend college out of state. After one semester at the University of Montana Missoula, Cottrell came home.
“I hated it,” Cottrell said. “I felt like I had failed and had lost my chance at a successful future. I knew I wanted to get a college degree, so I started taking classes at Kachemak Bay Campus down in Homer. That campus gave me the opportunity to pursue a degree in higher education, even though a traditional school did not work for me. I eventually completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees through the University of Alaska.”
Cottrell said she would not be where she is today without Kenai Peninsula College.
Before voting, assembly member Paul Fischer said he was disapointed that more students didn’t come to speak in support of Kenai Peninsula College.
“I was disappointed we had mostly employees here tonight, and not students,” Fischer said. “That weighed my vote a little bit.”
The amendment to increase funding to meet the 1/10th mill rate is included in the FY 2020, which will have another public hearing and be voted on at the June 4 meeting. The public will have an opportunity to comment during the meeting.