Kenai Central High School is seen in this 2018 photo in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School is seen in this 2018 photo in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

School district to submit funding request

The $48 million the district plans to request Tuesday reflects compromises by the district and by the borough.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will formally submit its FY 2022 funding request to the borough on Tuesday, in which it will request to be funded at $48 million. The formal submission kicks off a 30-day countdown, before the end of which the borough must respond to the request with its acceptance or counteroffer of a budget floor.

Budget negotiations between the district and the borough have been in the works for months, with the groups having participated in two joint work sessions. The $48 million the district plans to request Tuesday reflects compromises by the district and by the borough.

When negotiations began in February, the district requested to be fully funded by the borough, at about $53 million, while Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce proposed about $43 million as a minimum amount. The school district first revised its request during the March 2 work session with the borough, where they offered a new request of $50 million. During that meeting the borough also revised its proposal and said it could fund the district at $45 million.

KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said that the proposal already reflects cuts and that a further reduction could mean a loss of teaching positions. The district was already projecting a loss of 48 positions due to a projected decrease in enrollment.

In response, Pierce has said that the minimum amount proposed by the borough reflects a general loss in revenue by the borough overall in 2020, specifically citing a loss of sales tax revenue during the pandemic. To save the positions, he said, the district should use its federal COVID relief.

O’Brien initially said that using temporary funds to save teaching positions would be “kicking the can down the road,” however, the district said during March budget town halls that they would use some of the funds to save positions. That decision was made after the district learned they would receive a third round of federal funding under the American Rescue Plan. Those federal funds come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, fund.

In all, the school district has received three rounds of ESSER funds, including those approved under the American Rescue Plan. As of Monday, the district did not know how much money it would be receiving via ESSER III funds, but that 20% of the money must be used to help students who fell behind academically during the pandemic. That may include programs such as summer enrichment programs or after-school programs, among other things.

KPBSD is predicting that revenue from all sources for FY22 will total about $131.4 million, including money from the borough, from the state and from miscellaneous sources. They are anticipating expenditures of about $134.1 million, which would result in a projected deficit of about $2.68 million to be covered with the unassigned fund balance.

More information about the district’s budget process thus far can be found on the district’s finance page at kpbsd.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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