While the Alaska Legislature continues to debate the state operating budget, we’re glad to see the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District take steps to address its own budget gaps as they pertain to school swimming pool operations.
The school district began examining pool operations last year after a proposal to close the Skyview Middle School pool was met with public outcry to keep it open. However, during the same time frame the state’s fiscal picture has grown significantly worse, and in light of the current situation, it’s crucial for the school district to look at all operations with a critical eye.
In years past, the district could all but count on a last-minute appropriation tucked into a budget bill to help with a shortfall. That’s clearly not going to be the case this year, nor does it appear likely that any extra funding, such as the one-time funding the Legislature approved last year, will be available any time soon. In fact, districts around the state still aren’t sure what funding they’ll be getting for the coming school year.
With that as a backdrop, the school district is looking at increasing fees for using its pools. Right now, administrators and school board members are researching other facilities around the state to determine the going rates. The general consensus is that currently, the district is below it.
The next step is for the school board to approve any changes in fees.
While we hate to see anything cost more — especially access to such a healthy activity — it is imperative that the school district be able to cover the cost of operations, especially when the service is being provided for the community at large, and not specifically for students.
The school district already has identified some efficiencies in managing pools; an increase in fees should be part of the equation.
For the next few years, the school district is going to need to pinch every penny. The district needs to make sure that every dollar possible goes toward educating students. To keep pools open for the community, it is reasonable to ask for a greater contribution from the community.