School budget cuts could affect custodians, others

This graph uses calculations based on a Feb. 6 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget presentation to show where the school district has made its $8.55 million in budget cuts since fiscal 2015. (Graphic by Vincent Nusunginya/Peninsula Clarion)

This graph uses calculations based on a Feb. 6 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget presentation to show where the school district has made its $8.55 million in budget cuts since fiscal 2015. (Graphic by Vincent Nusunginya/Peninsula Clarion)

A rough sketch of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s budget for the coming year includes $2.48 million in cuts that administrators are recommending to offset anticipated funding that would otherwise leave the present district budget with a $2.79 million deficit.

Though state education funding — which constitutes roughly 64 percent of district revenue in the present fiscal 2017 budget — has yet to pass through the legislature, the present state spending proposal would send $79.22 million to the district, which is budgeted to spend $138.16 million this fiscal year. The deficit scenario assumes that the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s roughly 36 percent contribution to the school budget remains the same as last year’s $48.23 million.

The proposed cuts, presented by district Assistant Superintendents Dave Jones and John O’Brien at the district Board of Education’s Feb. 6 meeting, would still leave a $967,879 deficit to be filled from the district’s approximately $12.89 million fund balance reserve.

In addition to providing education, the school district is also the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s largest employer, with 1,217 employees on a $64.15 million payroll, according to a district communications department presentation.

Personnel expenses are the largest section of the school district’s spending — in fiscal 2017, employee salaries, benefits, and travel make up 81.9 percent of its budgeted $138.16 million expenditure. Since fiscal year 2015, employees have also taken the biggest share of cuts. Calculations based on a Feb. 6 presentation to school board members show that personnel measures such as hour or position reductions, salary and benefit reductions, and cut travel spending  have made up $6.95 million of the $8.55 million the school district has cut since fiscal 2015.

Of the savings measures administrators proposed at the Feb. 6 meeting, all but one — a $10,000 cut from extra curricular safety funds — involve staffing adjustments. Specific measures include $59,703 saved by eliminating one accounting specialist position and cutting two months of work time from another, $500,000 saved by cuts to custodian positions, and $624,302 saved by eliminating all but eight district English Language Learner (ELL) tutors, who provide English instruction to students learning it as a second language. The tutors who remain will serve the predominantly Russian-speaking villages of Nikolaevsk, Razdolna, Vozneskenka, and Kachemak Selo. Assistant superintendent Dave Jones said the $500,000 custodial cut is “a work in progress.” The amount, he said, is derived from the district’s formula that considers student numbers and square footage when assigning custodians to schools, and comes from changes in the number of the district’s students.

How the loss will be distributed through the workload of the district’s 94 full- and part-time custodians is still be be decided. 

“We plan on having a meeting with the head custodians and talking about ‘OK, if we have to reduce hours, what are things we can do less?’” Jones said. “We talked earlier about the potential of sweeping floors three nights a week instead of five nights a week.”

Patti Sirouis, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association — the union that represents school support staff such as custodians — said the measure concerned her.

“‘Clean’ is going to look different,” Sirouis said. “We’re down to the bare bones as it is. So I just don’t know how people could take on any more and keep it at the same level.”

Smaller schools in the district have only one custodian, Sirouis said. She gave as examples Cooper Landing School, whose custodian works four-hour days, and Moose Pass School, whose custodian works two hours.

“When you cut custodians, the buildings don’t shrink,” Sirouis said. “When they’re 22,000 square feet, they’re still 22,000 square feet. And they’re being used. We don’t close down rooms necessarily.”

School District spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said some of the lost custodial funding cut could come from supply expenses as well as workers.

“It’s also important to note that with any reduction in workforce, first we look to normal attrition that occurs with retirement, unpaid leaves, and voluntary transfers,” Erkeneff wrote in an email.

 

The school district will hold public meetings about its fiscal 2018 budget plans on Feb. 14 at Seward High School, Feb. 15 at Soldotna High School, and Feb. 21 at Homer High School. All are at 5:30 p.m.

The Soldotna High School presentation will be broadcast via skype to the high school libraries of Kenai Central High School, Nikiski Middle-High School, Port Graham, Nanwalek, Susan B. English, and Tebughna schools.

More in News

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Kenai Police Department Chief David Ross explains the purpose of a grant to be used for new radios during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Police to update radios using grant money

The department received almost $260,000 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Most Read