School board budget to be approved, far from complete

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:04pm
  • News

Few things are certain about the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s budget, but what is clear is that the board of education will approve one for the upcoming fiscal year during its Monday meeting.

Though the board is required to pass a balanced budget, one in which revenues and expenditures meet, the sources of that revenue — the state and the Kenai Peninsula Borough — have yet to clarify absolute funding levels, leaving the school district to approve a budget that will change dramatically when funding sources are solidified.

The budget currently contains a $4.5 million shortfall, or lack of revenue to make up for projected spending.

The district addressed this by pulling more than $2.1 million of health care fund balance and the rest from unassigned fund balance, a type of district savings. In addition, the administration identified about $1.3 million in cuts, including an increase to the student teacher ratio.

That increase in the number of students in each teacher’s classroom resulted in a cut of about 10 teachers across the district, cuts that the board of education already voted to instate — though those cuts could be reversed, said district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.

“(The) board can change anything at this point,” Erkeneff wrote in an email. “Thus those reductions and changes are not set in stone, even though they have already been identified and included in the budget as it will be presented.”

Previously, both Erkeneff and assistant superintendent Dave Jones had referred to those cuts as permanent.

It is unlikely that the student teacher ratio would be reduced and those teaching positions will be reinstated as staffing and scheduling has already been determined for the next year, Erkeneff said.

At the state level, funding for schools could be much higher than district administration had anticipated at the outset of the budgetary process — though their budget projection included $1.741 million in “one-time” funding from the state, which it has received for the last three years.

The current budget was built on the assumption that no changes would be made to the Base Student Allocation, or the per-student amount of money given to the district by the state each year.

Instead, Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed budget included an increase of $85 per student and the House passed a measure Monday that would increase it by $185 for the upcoming fiscal year and $58 for the following two years — resulting in a final base student allocation of $5,981 in 2016. That bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

Also embedded in the bill was an addition $30 million in one-time funding, which Dave Jones, assistant superintendent, said he hoped was in addition to the 25 million in one-time funding that was already included in a state appropriations bill.

“As far as we know, (the $25 million) is still there, but it’s conference-able which means that they could change it when they come together in conference committee to settle this stuff,” Jones said.

With the increase to the student allowance and additional one-time funding, the school district’s budget shortfall could then be completely covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Currently, the budget is built to include about $43.5 million from the borough but the district could be given an additional $2.5 million by the borough before the funding cap is reached. But the borough, which gives about 68 percent of all borough taxes collected to the district, has yet to decide how much money it will provide.

“There is room between the cap and what they’re currently funding us, yes,” Jones said. “They could (fund higher). Would they? That’s a question for them.”

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said it was difficult to commit to the district’s budget request early, as the state’s level of funding had not yet been determined.

“The state budget, in both the House and the Senate so far, have increased the amount that they’re putting into education, so it may require something less than what they originally asked us for in terms of our local contribution,” Navarre said.

The borough’s budget will not come out until June, but will introduced to the Borough Assembly at its first meeting in May, Navarre said.

“We’re in the final stages of putting our budget together, but the number for the school district will be one of the last things that we put in because we’re going to wait to see what the legislature does,” he said.

If the state ultimately approves the higher base student allocation and one-time funding, and the borough chose to fund the school district at a high enough level to cover the rest of the projected shortfall — Jones said the board could then talk about cuts that could be reduced.

That discussion will take place at 4 p.m. Monday in the borough building in Soldotna during the board’s budgetary work session, Jones said.

Those work sessions are open to the public, but are not broadcast online as is typical of the board of education meetings.

“The fortunate thing is, if (the state and borough cover the shortfall) we’re not going to have to look at further cuts,” Jones said. “Our recommendation will be that we pass the budget as it exists here and that we use that unassigned fund balance but when the Senate and House pass and come to the end of the session, then we use that additional revenue to reduce the unassigned fund balance spend.”

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Kenai Vice Mayor and council member Bob Molloy (center), council member Jim Glendening (right), council member Victoria Askin (far right), and council member Henry Knackstedt (far left) participate in a work session discussing the overhaul of Kenai election codes on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska.
Kenai City Council gives sendoffs, certifies election results

Both council members-elect — Deborah Sounart and James Baisden — attended Wednesday.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
COVID is No. 3 underlying cause of death among Alaskans so far this year

The virus accounted for about 7.5% of all underlying causes of death after a review of death certificates.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives during a floor debate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, over an appropriations bill during the Legislature’s third special session of the summer. Multiple organizations reported on Wednesday that Eastman is a lifetime member of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Data leak shows state rep is member of far-right organization

Wasilla area lawmaker said he joined when Oath Keepers first started.

Christine Hutchison, who lives in Kenai and also serves on the Kenai Harbor Commission, testifies in support of the use of alternative treatments for COVID-19 during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Medical liberty’ petition brought to Kenai City Council

Some members of the public and Kenai City Council spoke against health mandates and in support of alternative treatments for COVID-19

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a member of Trout Unlimited and streamwatch coordinator for the Chugach National Forest, works in the field in this undated photo. Kraxberger-Linson will be discussing at the Saturday, Oct. 23 International Fly Fishing Film Festival the organization’s educational programming for next summer. (Photo provided by Trout Unlimited)
Out on the water — and on the screen

Trout Unlimited to host fly fishing film festival Saturday.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)
Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

Three speech language pathologists with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were recognized for excellence during the Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association last month. (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Peninsula speech language therapists awarded for excellence

“I was very honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues,” Evans said in an interview with the Clarion.

Most Read