Assembly sets school funding floor

The roughly $56.2 million amount is less than the $58.2 million requested last month but is more than what the borough gave the district last year

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday established the minimum amount of money it will spend on borough schools for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.

The roughly $56.2 million amount, proposed by Borough Mayor Peter Micciche, is less than the $58.2 million requested by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District last month but is more than what the borough gave the district last year. Assembly members may increase, but may not decrease, that amount in the final borough budget.

The proposed $56.2 million contribution was previously the maximum amount of money the borough could give the school district for fiscal year 2025. Kenai Peninsula Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh told assembly members Tuesday, though, that a change in how that contribution is calculated bumped the maximum value up to $58.2 million.

As put forward by Micciche, the $56.2 million amount would fund about $41 million in cash for school operations and about $15.3 million in in-kind, or non-monetary contributions, such as building maintenance, financial audits and insurance. The borough would also spend $4 million on capital projects at school facilities and pay about $5 million on debt service for school bonds.

Including capital and debt spending, Micciche’s proposed budget would spend about $65.2 million on the school district next fiscal year.

The KPBSD board of education has worked for months to craft a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which it’s required to deliver to the borough by May 1. The district faced a $16 million budget deficit heading into the current budget cycle and joined districts around Alaska in calling for state lawmakers to increase funding for K-12 schools.

The board last month opted to move forward with a budget that assumes no new money from the state and a maximum financial contribution from the borough.

During a Tuesday meeting of the assembly’s finance committee, though, Micciche said it’s time for the state to act.

“The bottom line is the state has to meet their constitutional requirement to fund education and we can’t cover the gap no matter what if they don’t — it’s simply not possible,” Micciche said. “Eroding into what they should be paying simply not only doesn’t make sense, but its unaffordable to our own residents. As they continue to shift more and more costs to the local governments, it’s time to stand up.”

KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland during Tuesday’s assembly meeting said he’s optimistic about efforts by state lawmakers to boost state funding this year, but that he’ll petition the borough for more money if those efforts fall through.

“Hopefully that’ll all go through in some shape or form, but if it doesn’t, you know I will have to acknowledge, I’ll be coming back and asking for funding,” he said.

Micciche said the borough will “see what happens” at the state level.

“I know Clayton knows that I keep my word and I gave my word on that very issue,” Micciche said. “We’re working every day to secure the funding that is now in the budget … As said before, we’ll be there if we need to be. I appreciate your understanding of our affordability curve. We’ll see what happens.”

School board president Zen Kelly and LaDawn Druce, the president of the union that represents the school district’s certified staff, both celebrated what they described as a team approach to school funding this budget cycle.

“I want to appreciate the open channels of communication that have been between the school board and the assembly and the administration here at the borough,” he said. “It’s very much appreciated. I really feel like we are all on the same team and advocating for schools.”

Druce had similar thoughts.

“I’ve been in this position before — years ago — where it wasn’t a group effort, so to speak, and we didn’t all seem to be on the same page, singing the same note,” Druce said. “It’s very good taking this role this year knowing that this would not be a fight, this would not be an argument, this would be people coming together and supporting education and doing right by the citizens of this borough as well.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s budget is subject to final approval by assembly members. Public hearings on the budget will be held on May 21 and June 4.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s draft budget documents can be found on the borough’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at