The night before most students would be starting their summer vacation, it was announced the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District might receive $50 less per student in state funding, or roughly $1 million less than has been budgeted for next year.
The amount, also applied to the state’s 53 other public school districts, was nearly equivalent to the $50 increase of the Base Student Allocation previously approved by Gov. Bill Walker, and placed in both the House and Senate budgets before the Conference Committee voted Tuesday to remove the money. The loss for the school district is nearly $900,000 from the state and more than $200,000 in corresponding funds from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
“Unfortunately, when funding reductions occur so late in the process we have limited options that will eventually deplete our fund balance and leave us with no options, but to make significant staff reductions,” said Sean Dusek, school district superintendent. “Fortunately, this time, we won’t have to make any more staff reductions to cover the larger deficit.”
Dusek said he was deeply frustrated with the Conference Committee’s action because of the work put into this year’s budget development process.
“There was no chance for public comment and this goes against the budgets that both the Senate and the House passed including the statutory increase that they promised three years ago,” said David Brighton, Kenai Peninsula Education Association president. “This change is going to hurt the education of our children.”
Brighton said he followed the legislature closely this session in hopes of seeing more changes to revenue issues, not just making cuts. The school district, he said, has done its share in trimming services along with the rest of the state.
Nearly $4 million in services were reduced for the school district’s FY17 Operating Budget, approved by the Board of Education during the April 4 regularly scheduled meeting.
Administrators began discussions with the Board of Education in August, nearly four months earlier this year than usual. When the operating budget was presented to the board, it included a reduction of roughly 25 Full Time Equivalent certified teaching positions, and 33 school district positions total. At the April 4 board meeting, 13.5 of the previously eliminated certified teaching positions were put back in the budget.
“We did not initially include the statutory $50 BSA increase in our FY17 budget until the last possible school board meeting prior to the deadline to issue teaching contracts as required by law,” said Pegge Erkeneff, school district liaison. “The inclusion of this revenue was only made after extensive discussion with many members of the legislature and accepting the previous vote by both the Senate and the House of Representatives to include the equivalent of $50 BSA educational funding.”
The Conference Committee cut roughly $66 million from the budget last minute, and the action still has to go to a floor vote, which will be done in the fourth special session that began Monday. Gov. Bill Walker listed ten items in a May 19 executive proclamation that the legislature has yet to resolve, including the last minute cut to public education funding.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.