School district examines revenue options

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, October 5, 2015 10:33pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District may be able to generate more revenue by raising admission, activity and food service fees.

Administrators have been reviewing potential internal revenue sources to offset what is likely to be another round of funding cuts to education in the state’s fiscal year 2017 operating budget and, more immediately, the likely 90 fewer students than were projected to be enrolled for the 2015–2016 school year.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dave Jones presented findings from an analysis of meal costs, building use fees, pool and auditorium use fees and student activity fees to the Board of Education during a work session Monday.

Enrollment is down approximately 1 percent, according to a memo from Jones. The school district is still in the middle of its 20-day OASIS count, or On-Line Alaska School Information System, which began on Sept. 28 and will end on Oct. 23. “If the trend carries through,” between loss of state foundation funding and the corresponding reduction in the maximum allowable contribution by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the school district may lose up to $1 million, according to the memo.

Some of that funding may be recovered if the number of students with intensive needs is higher than projected, such as was the case during the 2014-2015 school year, when 146 students were projected to enroll but 161 were ultimately identified, according to the memo.

A student with intensive needs will receive nearly 13 times more in state funding than those without intensive needs, Jones said.

While the pool use and fees are still under review, Jones said it is unlikely the “general fund budget woes” will be solved unless the district raises admission, rental or punch card prices. Jones will present a comprehensive swimming pool update to the board on Dec. 7.

The school district charges less for building use fees and renting central peninsula auditoriums than other districts, including Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau. Only about half of the school district’s schools “have regular fee collections for buildings,” and revenues were down to $72,000 in the fiscal year 2015 from $75,000 in the fiscal year 2014. Auditoriums cost $7,000 more than they generate annually, according to the memo.

A significant chunk of revenue may be accumulated by raising the price of paid meals by $0.65 to $3.50 at the elementary level, $0.75 to $4 at the middle and high school level and raising the price of paid breakfasts for all grades by $0.25 to $2, according to the memo.

After the participation losses that would occur by raising prices, the school district could make about $128,000 more annually, Jones said. In fiscal year 2015, the school district made up the $1.3 million deficit left after the federal government paid $2.3 million and the $638,000 that was generated by food sales, he said.

Jones added that grants from the state or federal governments “are not really a solution to our problem.”

“Well, nothing is,” said board member Lynn Holh.

Board President Joe Arness said to the board members that everyone now knows what the questions are in relation to raising fees, and will further discuss the details at the upcoming regularly scheduled meetings.

Board member Sunni Hilts suggested looking at even more revenue options.

“This is not a one-year problem,” Hilts said.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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