John O’Brien remotely addresses the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

John O’Brien remotely addresses the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough, district to hold 2nd budget work session Tuesday

The meeting can be streamed live via Zoom or on the district’s media page

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education will meet with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday for a joint work session to discuss the school district’s FY 2022 budget and borough education funding.

Borough administration and the assembly were at odds with the school district during their Feb. 2 joint work session, where the borough proposed $43 million as a minimum amount when the district requested $53 million. During that work session, KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said that the $53 million figure already reflects cuts and that a further reduction of $10 million could mean the loss of 100 teaching positions. That would be in addition to a potential loss of 48 other positions due to a projected decrease in enrollment.

A budget reduction list linked by the Board of Education with meeting material for Tuesday’s work session outlines three tiers of cuts, which have not been implemented, and how much money those cuts would save the district. Examples of “tier one cuts” include reducing days worked by tutors and aides by 10 days, the elimination of Student Success Liaisons, reducing High School Secretary III’s to a 206-day calendar and reducing 216-day contracts to 211 days.

Those tier one reductions would save the district approximately $760,000. The implementation of all three tiers worth of reductions would save the district about $6 million.

KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said Monday that those tiers were initially developed two years ago by the board as a “what if” scenario in response to a proposed state budget that would have reduced KPBSD’s state funding by $20 million. The school board will analyze the tiers on Tuesday, prior to the work session. Ultimately, Erkeneff said, the borough does not determine school district expenditures and operations if there is a decrease in education revenue.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has said that the district should use the roughly $9 million they will receive from the federal government in CARES Act dollars to save those teaching positions. However, O’Brien said that those funds are meant specifically to help students who fell behind academically during the COVID pandemic to catch up. Using those funds to supplant the district’s budget, O’Brien said, would be “kicking the can down the road.”

The borough has cited a loss in sales tax revenue over the past year due to COVID as a financial hit generally for the borough and as a contributing factor to the budget amount they proposed for the district.

The borough mayor is not expected to present his budget to the assembly for approval until May, with the final hearing in June.

The district will host three community budget meetings, where the public will be able to give input on the district’s budget and budget process. The central peninsula’s meeting will take place on March 23 at 6 p.m. Homer’s meeting will take place on March 22 at 6 p.m. and Seward’s meeting will take place on March 18 at 6 p.m. All meetings will take place via Zoom.

Tuesday’s work session can be streamed live via Zoom or on the district’s media site.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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