School district could have significantly larger budget deficit

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, April 17, 2016 11:34pm
  • News

A few bills could still have a significant impact on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s deficit spending next year. Administrators calculate an additional $3.5 million in expenses next year if the Legislature votes to raise employer contributions for the Alaska Teachers’ Retirement and Public Employee’s Retirement systems.

The total increase equates to 40 teaching positions, which may be at risk if Senate Bills 207 and 209 pass this legislative session.

“On behalf of the school district, I would not be in favor of this bill due to the impact to the district, especially with the language of intent to fund from the legislature,” said Sean Dusek, school district superintendent. “This is a state program that was mismanaged last decade by the state. The bill is a cost shift which would have a large negative impact to the classroom.”

He added that the administrators recommended, and the Board of Education already approved, a $3.5 million reduction in spending for the 2017 school year from the 2016 school year. Dusek said he has informed all staff about the potential impact, and in the mean time has given testimony against the bills.

The teaching positions at risk would be in addition to nearly 12 full-time certified staff and 10 full-time non-certified staff cuts approved when the board passed the 2017 Operating Budget on Monday, April 4.

At that meeting the board put back 13 full-time positions into the budget that administrators had proposed for cuts back in February. Those 13 positions would be in addition to the 40 at risk if the 6.44 percent or $3 million hike in TRS and 2.5 percent or $436,584 increase in PERS contributions are passed, totaling a potential loss of 75 positions next year.

“We have supported the state in other ways to promote a sustainable fiscal plan by not only becoming more efficient through reductions, but also engaging all of our communities in the conversation on multiple occasions,” Dusek said.

The school district has been tracking the PERS and TRS bills since they were introduced, said Pegge Erkeneff, school district spokesperson.

“There is a process and life cycle for all bills,” she said. “KPBSD stays in close contact with our legislators, testifies when needed, and provides facts about bills that the district supports, is neutral about or still assessing, or opposes.”

If passed, the bills would increase contributions to TRS by more than 80 percent by 2019, and more than 75 percent to PERS by 2018.

“The district is following the bills closely, and in close contact with our legislators,” Erkeneff said.

So far, the two bills have not been scheduled for committee hearings.

The current scheduled deficit spending for the school district is just more than $200,000. According to an April 1 school district press release, collective bargaining between the school district, Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations is still ongoing, and still has the potential to increase the deficit.

The House, Senate and Gov. Bill Walker all have so far included a $50 increase to the Base Student Allocation in the Foundation Formula that determines how much a school district receives in state funding per enrolled student each year. If kept in the budget that could mean an additional $886,375 in funding for the school district, according to the release.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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