Shrinking the funding gap

  • By KAYLEE OSOWSKI
  • Sunday, May 4, 2014 8:54pm
  • News

While the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will see more money to help close its funding gap thanks to an increase in state appropriations, district administrators still have questions about funding and other aspects of House Bill 278 passed by lawmakers.

The Legislature increased the Base Student Allocation — the per-student funding method — by $150 for fiscal year 2015 and by $50 for each of the following two years.

It also allocated set dollar amounts to be distributed statewide as one-time funding. Districts will get nearly $43 million in FY15, $32.2 million the following year, and nearly $20 million in FY17.

Of the $43 million, KPBSD is estimated to get nearly $3 million.

“The amount from (the state) is going to close it further, but it’s not going to close it all the way,” Superintendent Steve Atwater said.

He said services in the current budget will be maintained; the additional funds won’t lead to expansion of services.

The KPBSD Board of Education passed a more than $161.2 million operating budget on April 14.

When administrators first began working on the budget, they faced an $8.6 million deficit.

“In November I didn’t anticipate receiving as much as we did in the end from the state,” Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said.

Jones is working to recalculate state revenues with the new BSA levels. He said while the state makes calculations for the district, KPBSD also has to do its own calculations to make sure the figures agree.

The district is also waiting on a dollar amount from the Kenai Peninsula Borough for how much it will contribute. The funding cap for the borough goes up when the state increases its contribution. Lawmakers also changed the funding calculation for local government contributions in the bill. Previously local contributions were figured only based on the basic need funding from the state, which is calculated using the BSA.

The state’s annual one-time funding will now be included in the formula to calculate local governments’ minimum and maximum contribution levels.

The borough budget will be introduced to the assembly Tuesday.

“We do a revision to the (KPBSD) budget after the pieces fall into place,” Atwater said.

In July the district will do its first budget revision with the new amounts.

While the Legislature has approved the bill, Gov. Sean Parnell still has veto power.

Charter schools saw support from the Legislature in the approved bill. KPBSD has four operating charter schools, which Jones said is one of the highest numbers of charters per capita compared to other districts in the state.

While Atwater said the district works closely with prospective charter schools to develop their applications, the bill allows for a charter that has been denied by a board to appeal to the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Atwater said the board has never denied a charter school, however, if “things go south” and the board rejects an application that section of the bill could affect the district.

The bill also adjusts the funding formula for charter schools. Charters with at least 75 students will be calculated by multiplying the count by the rate for a school of at least 150 students. Previously charters had to have more than 120 students to qualify for the formula calculation. Jones said the change increased the adjustment to Fireweed Academy students. Atwater said that school was the only one of the districts four operating charter schools that was affected; other charters have more than 150 kids.

The Legislature also approved a charter school grant program. According to the bill, “a charter school that is established on or after the effective date of this section may receive a one-time grant from the department equal to the amount of $500 for each student enrolled in the school on Oct. 1 of the first year in which the school applies for the grant.”

While the board approved Greatland Adventure Academy as a charter school more than a year ago, the school has yet to find a suitable building. Due to the dormant status of the charter, administrators are unsure if the academy is eligible for the grant.

“We’re waiting to get the ruling on that,” Atwater said.

 

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

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