The Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education began budget development this year by asking individual schools how they think the district can cut costs.
The school board used the feedback to identify potential priorities, ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues. Nine schools sent responses. Protecting the pupil teacher ratio was the highest reported priority. Raising borough funding and no decrease in wages or benefits were also high on the list.
“For Kenai Central High School (and other high schools in the district), if the pupil teacher ratio is raised, then programs and diversity in the schedule are sure to suffer,” according to the Kenai Central High School’s site council report.
Redoubt Elementary School suggested increasing the pupil teacher ratio to cut spending. Soldotna Prep agreed.
“Ultimately the group could not find any clear cut area that needed additional funds or called for reductions,” according to the Soldotna Prep site council report.
“The only way to really reduce this budget is personnel and benefits and those are not controllable costs,” wrote Soldotna Prep Site Council President Mike Frost in the document.
The Tebughna School site council in Tyonek suggested they combine the part-time cook and full-time secretary positions into one full-time position.
Tebughna School’s principal Marilyn Johnson said it wouldn’t cause stress within the school to merge the positions, but it would be hard finding a community member willing to do both.
Kenai Central High School also suggested consolidation. Merging programs that have a similar purpose such as Kenai Alternative and River City Academy may prove an effective way to reduce costs, the site council reported.
The schools reported energy cost reduction as the most common suggestion for reducing expenditures.
“While those at school have been very frugal with supplies, energy usage and everyday operations at the school, we realize there is always room for improvement,” according to the Susan B English School in Seldovia report.
Schools also brought up the possibility of increasing revenues. Many of the councils reported they were in favor of raising the mill rate as a way to increase revenue in the boroughs.
The Skyview Middle School Site Council said the borough should fund to the cap. Doing so, they wrote, would alleviate the budget shortfall. Depleting the district’s fund balance would not an effective way to approach dealing with any deficits, according to the Skyview site council report.
“Responsibility budgeting at all levels from individuals to families to large organizations involves maintaining a savings account to access when unexpected major expenses occur,” according to the Skyview site council report. “It would be irresponsible of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to not have a fund balance. “
The Redoubt Elementary School council wrote they would support smaller pay increases with during negotiations in January with the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, which represents the certified teachers in the district, and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, which represents support staff.
“Negotiating a smaller pay increase with the associations for this next contract may show the board and community that everyone is willing to sacrifice something for the greater good,” according to the Redoubt site council report. School board member Sunni Hilts said the school board should internalize the school’s priorities before finalizing the budget in December.
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