Alaska’s financial picture isn’t getting any brighter

  • Thursday, May 7, 2015 7:59pm
  • Opinion

As the economics of the state’s budget deficit trickle down, local governments are now faced with having less to spend — and making tough decisions on how to hang on to the funds they do have.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing the biggest impact as it already was facing a deficit, and proposed cuts exacerbate the situation — particularly as the district budget was formulated before many of the cuts were proposed. And the school district remains in fiscal limbo as the Legislature approved a budget but has yet to agree on funding for it.

Meanwhile, the district is looking to the borough government for help that in years past would have come in the form of a last-minute allocation from the Legislature — the proverbial rabbit pulled out of a hat. The borough assembly opted to leave the rabbit in the hat for the moment, approving a resolution to allocate $46 million to the school district, a number below the maximum amount the borough is allowed to contribute. Should the assembly decide to revise that number upward after the Legislature finishes with the budget, the additional funding would only put a dent in what could be as much as an $8 million school district deficit — though the school district’s savings would at least stretch a little further.

The state’s financial situation doesn’t just impact the school district. The city of Kenai has been squirreling away funds for the past several years to address bluff erosion. Some of that money comes from state grants that, if unused, will lapse next year. City Manager Rick Koch noted that the Legislature did not re-appropriate any funds this year; lapsed funding went back into the state’s general fund.

Kenai Peninsula residents also heard directly from elected representatives on Tuesday, however, and their message was that as deep as cuts have been this session, things are going to be even tougher next year. And they made clear that, when it comes to using state savings, they would remain conservative in their approach.

In other words, while entities that rely on the state for a significant portion of their funding — such as the school district — may be able to hold off on significant cuts this year, they’re coming.

While the start of the next budget cycle is a few months away, organizations need to start implementing contingency plans immediately, because — barring an unexpected turnaround in the price of oil — the only way to have some funds in reserve for next year will be to spend less this year.

More in Opinion

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day