Rent’s due: District charter schools to pay rent as a result of HB 287

  • By KAYLEE OSOWSKI
  • Wednesday, September 10, 2014 10:45pm
  • News

Four Kenai Peninsula schools will be paying rent soon.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved a rent plan for the four active charter schools in the district at its Monday meeting.

The issue has been a topic at previous board meetings and work sessions and was unanimously approved at the Monday meeting.

Mo Sanders, principal at Soldotna Montessori Charter School, said the principals of all of the operating charters — Aurora Borealis, Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science and Fireweed Academy — are supportive of the plan.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones figured the rent based on the Adjusted Average Daily Membership, or per pupil figures that take into account school size, special needs and other factors at the schools. Each charter is scheduled to be charged $615 per its daily membership.

The Borough Assembly voted to fund the district at $44 million in its fiscal year 2015 budget, which is $20.4 million above the required local contribution. A total of $1.7 million is scheduled to go to the charter schools.

According to a May 27 memo from Jones to the board, the district had not previously “officially designated” money from the additional allowable funds to charters. It did, however, support them by sharing in-kind services, which include property, liability and workers compensation insurance, audits, utilities, custodial and maintenance costs. The charter schools will also be charged for these costs based on daily membership.

With the passage of House Bill 287, the district is now required to contribute a portion of the additional allowable funds to charter schools based on their daily memberships.

“The funds come directly to us and then are basically paid back to the district for all of the kinds of things that would be covered … so I think it’s fair and reasonable,” Sanders said.

Sanders said in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, many charter schools are located in off-campus buildings.

“It’s very expensive,” she said. … “That’s what those funds were basically intended for — schools that need to lease or pay.”

After in-kind and rent costs are calculated, Aurora Borealis and Kaleidoscope are both left with $1,777.12, Soldotna Montessori will have $1,405.26 and Fireweed Academy will have $126,459.84 remaining. Fireweed is housed in West Homer Elementary and in a non-district building that it pays for and maintains. Jones only calculated Fireweed’s payments for its space in West Homer.

Sanders said Soldotna Montessori did consider other housing options a few years ago, but funds would have come out of the general fund budget.

“My belief … is that general funds are designed for the instructional purposes of the kids, to staff and teach the kids,” Sanders said. “And to pay $250,000 to $350,000 a year for a lease, and that’s minimum, that means you’re going to cut staff because almost all money in schools goes to staff.”

Rent based on square footage was considered, but presented challenges, according to a Sept. 2 memo from Jones.

Soldotna Montessori shares a building and rooms with Soldotna Elementary School. Kaleidoscope has a larger space with more kids. So the question of whether square footage was a fair way to consider school utilization came up, and it was determined that per pupil calculation was the best option, Sanders said.

 

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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