Editorial: Clock is ticking on school funding

  • By Peninsula Clarion Editorial
  • Saturday, March 10, 2018 9:30pm
  • Opinion

The things certain in life, as the saying goes, are death and taxes. And with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, don’t even count on taxes.

At its Tuesday meeting, the assembly spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to cover a $4 million hole in its budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Much of the discussion revolves around how the borough government will choose to fund the school district, which is by far the largest portion of the borough’s budget. The borough administration has proposed funding the school district at the same level as the current year, at about $49 million. The district, seeing increasing costs and anticipating flat funding from the state, is asking for the borough to kick in a few million more. Should borough funding stay flat, school district administrators are preparing for what they are calling “Scenario Two,” which involves staffing cuts and increased class sizes across the district.

The borough administration and assembly have been looking at ways to cover the deficit for several years, with a variety of tax proposals, including an increase in the property tax mill rate, changes in the senior property tax exemption, an increase in the per-transaction cap on taxable sales, a bed tax, and a sales tax increase, among other measures.

Yet with all the discussion of potential new revenue, none of those measures have come to fruition. And if the assembly continues to look at tax increases that require voter approval, they’re not likely to pass anytime soon, either.

Last Tuesday, the assembly for the second time rejected putting the bed tax measure on the fall ballot. Last fall, voters shot down a sales tax cap increase. A year ago, the assembly nixed a mill rate increase. In 2016, voters said no to a sales tax cap increase and a reduction in the senior property tax exemption.

With the bed tax off the table, the assembly will now consider increasing the borough sales tax from 3 to 3.5 percent. Sales tax collected by the borough is dedicated to education funding.

Assembly member Dale Bagley summed it up this way: “It seems like there’s the will of the assembly to do some kind of tax increase but we can’t collectively seem to agree on any one course, which is unfortunate.”

In fact, the only agreement seems to be that the borough cannot continue to draw from its fund balance to pay for borough services, which includes public schools.

We hope members of the borough assembly can get themselves on the same page when it comes to the borough’s revenue picture. If school district funding is in fact a priority, then figuring out how to pay for it also must be a priority. That may require enacting a measure that doesn’t need voter approval, such as the mill rate increase.

Otherwise, the school district needs to continue to prepare for its worst-case scenario, which requires pink slips to go out next month. The clock is ticking.

More in Opinion

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.

This photo shows the trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
Alaska Voices: The permanent fund has been taking care of Alaskans for 45 years

It’s the largest sovereign wealth fund in the nation, the pride of Alaska and this month we celebrate its 45th anniversary.

Dr. Tom Hennessy, MD, MPH (Courtesy)
Voices of the Peninsula: Don’t take medical advice from politicians, athletes or social media

Evidence leads to consensus among medical doctors: Vaccines are the best way to prevent infection.

The Entrance to the University of Alaska Southeast. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The University of Alaska is the state’s most important resource

Together, let’s break the record for donor participation.