It’s time to consider costs and cuts.
Parents, staff, members of the community and elected officials are invited to attend a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget meeting, which will be held via online video conferencing at 6 p.m. today at multiple schools across the district. It is the first step in the process of developing the fiscal year 2016 budget.
“What we’re trying to do is get the public and our parents engaged in the budget process and informed and give then the opportunity to have input into what they would like to see happen in our district,” said Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones.
The district again expects to face a deficit, but Jones said the administration is unsure how large the deficit will be.
By changing the pupil-teacher ratio to cut staff and using health care fund balance, the administration reduced an $8.2 million deficit to a $4.5 million deficit in the FY15 budget.
Jones said without any additional revenue, staff cuts could be considered again.
The budget called for the closure of a pool due to the Soldotna schools reconfiguration, which transformed Skyview High School to Skyview Middle School. However, after hearing much public interest in keeping the pool open, funding was reinstated for the year. The district is evaluating pool use to determine the future of the facility.
“Part of what we’re hoping people recognize out there is that additions in one area will mean reductions in another,” he said.
While the passage of House Bill 278 by lawmakers in the last legislative session and additional funding from the borough assembly helped to close the $4.5 million gap for the FY15 budget, it didn’t close it all the way. The district still had some money from the district’s fund balance.
Jones said the district has been using fund balance money for the past few years, but he doesn’t have the final figures for how much fund balance remains in the district’s account. He said the amount will be available soon.
“We really want to avoid any kind of cliff,” Jones said. “We would just as soon try to reduce on a leveled kind of smaller decline.”
The bill also included additional funding for the following two years. An additional $200,000 is expected for FY16 and the district expects a $7,000 increase in FY17.
“In FY15 … we still had a deficit budget, but (the bill) really helped us,” Jones said. “The concern with … FY16 is that the $200,000 really doesn’t cover the increases that we get faced with — health care and items like that.”
The administration also hopes to clear up some misinformation when it comes to the district’s budget. Jones said one of the most common questions from the public is, “Why is the district’s budget increasing when the student enrollment is decreasing?”
He said the payments made at the state-level on behalf of the district to the retirement fund have to be reflected in the district’s budget. Those funds didn’t used to be in the budget, so there appears to have been an increase to some people.
“In reality it’s not money that we get to spend,” Jones said. … “It’s reflected as a revenue and reflected as an expenditure.”
In fiscal year 2015 on-behalf payments totaled $33.6 million.
The district’s largest costs are salaries and benefits, which accounted for about 84 percent of expenditures in FY15.
The administration will present public input to the KPBSD Board of Education during an Oct. 21 work session.
“This is our attempt to try and get more people involved,” Jones said. “We want people … to be informed and do it early in the process so when it comes time late in the process to make the critical decisions they have an informed basis upon which to make those.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com
Meeting locations for 6 p.m. today: Chapman– HMS library; Connections Home-school – main office; Cooper Landing – room 4; Fireweed Academy – HMS library; Homer High – HMS library; Homer Middle – library; Hope – room 4; K-Beach Elementary – room 18; Kachemak-Selo – HMS library; Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science – library; Kenai Central High – library; Kenai Middle – library; McNeil Canyon – HMS library; Moose Pass – SWHS music room; Mountain View Elementary – KMS library; Nanwalek – recording will be shown Oct. 14; Nikiski North Star – NMHS library; Nikiski Middle-High – library; Nikolaevsk – library; Ninilchik – library; Paul Banks – HMS library; Port Graham – recording will be shown Oct. 16; Razdolna – HMS library; River City Academy – library; Redoubt Elementary – library; Seward Elementary – SWHS music room; Seward Middle – SWHS music room; Seward High – music room; Skyview Middle – staff lounge; Soldotna Elementary – library; Soldotna High School – room 24; Soldotna Prep – library; Sterling Elementary – Room 161A; Susan B. English – commons area; Tebughna – Room 1; Tustumena Elementary – multipurpose room; Voznesenka – MHS library; and West Homer Elementary – HMS library.