Local swimmers came out in droves to oppose potential cuts to education funding at Monday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting. The board passed their FY 2020 budget Monday night. The budget passed does not represent Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget, which would cut more than $22 million from the district’s budget.
The district has put pools on the chopping block if Dunleavy’s proposed budget should pass.
Katie Dawley, a coach for the Soldotna Silver Salmon Swim Team, asked the board for more specifics on how much money the district would be saving by cutting pools.
“We need swimming pools and we need kids and adults to know how to swim,” Dawley said in her public comment to the board. “Nobody can tell me what you’re going to gain financially from closing the pools.”
She said the $7,000 to $10,000 it costs for lifeguards and pool chemicals are covered by users in revenue. She said the district couldn’t say how much gas and electric for the pool costs because it’s attached to the school’s utility costs.
“If you’re going to cut it, I’m assuming you’ll want a number, not that it’s just going to save us money,” Dawley said.
Dawley suggested user groups of the pool could help float the costs of keeping the pools open.
Several children from the Soldotna Silver Salmon Swim Team spoke at the meeting about how important the pools are to them.
Lily and Will, two elementary students from Aurora Borealis Charter School, swim for the Silver Salmon. The two spoke to the board together.
“Closing down the pools isn’t quite good,” Lily said. “It’s bad. What we mean to say is we need swimming for socialization out of school and for outdoor activities.”
“It’s great exercise,” Will said. “It’s the best exercise out there because running hurts your joints.”
Michele Hartline of Nikiski spoke to the board and suggested that the community get together to create their own pool, independent from the district budget.
“Take an example from Nikiski,” Hardline said. “The people of Nikiski wanted their own pool. What did they do? They said we will create our own recreation service area. We will pay for it ourselves.”
The budget passed Monday is a status quo, general fund revenue budget of $145,387,469, which implements flat funding from the state, full funding from the borough and one-time funding that was appropriated by the Legislature last year.
Last April, the preliminary budget passed by the school board allocated more than $142 million in general fund revenue across the district.
On a state level, the district has been operating under the assumption of flat funding from the base student allocation of nearly $6,000 per student from the Foundation Funding Formula, totaling just under $80 million in state funding. Enrollment projection for the district was 8,681 students in Oct.18, 2018. The same base student allocation amount was used to fund the district for the last three budget years.
The district is asking the Kenai Peninsula Borough to fund to the maximum: $52,537,091. If maximum funding is available, the funds will provide for the social-emotional support plan, continued support of existing programs and increased costs associated with collective bargaining, according to the district’s documents.