District hopes borough will fund to ‘cap’

The Board of Education will be asked to approve the 2015-2016 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget on April 6, and must submit the finalized version to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly by May 1.

Currently the projected budget totals just more than $167 million, with a $6.5 million deficit, $2.6 of which will come directly from the General Fund Balance for health care costs.

The state also will be cutting $2.26 million in one-time funding, which will increase the deficit even further, said Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Support Dave Jones.

Health care costs include a 13 percent increase, which was recommended by the School District’s Health Care Broker, according to the budget.

As this year’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District budget development nears an end, Jones has been hosting a series of public meetings across the Kenai Peninsula to break down the final numbers.

Preceding each budget hearing was a discussion on the school district pools. This year closing down one of the school district’s aquatic facilities was not discussed.

Jones said the pools are running a nearly $800,000 deficit, but the goal right now is only to reduce that number. For the school district, the bigger picture is to implore the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to fund to the cap this year.

During the public meetings, Jones received concerns that the budget was finalized before all of the known revenue sources were announced.

The borough is not required to determine its contribution until 30 days after the school board submits the final budget, according to Alaska statute.

This year’s budget includes a $44 million contribution from the borough assembly, Jones said. That is $4.7 less than the maximum allowed local contribution, he said.

“They have the potential to solve our problem,” Jones said.

Each year the budget process begins with enrollment projections, Jones said. Next year the school district is expecting to see eight less students in district classrooms, he said.

Immediately this means less funding from the state, which is based on student enrollment, Jones said. However, according to the budget, state of Alaska revenue projections for the 2016 fiscal year include a $50 increase to the Base Student Allocation, which totals $5,880 this year.

The school district modified the teacher salary projections to include the projected decrease in enrollment, according to the budget. There was an increase of two intensive needs certified teachers however, as there is a projected enrollment increase of intensive need students, according to the budget.

While there are current teacher salary projections, the school district is in the middle of collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Education Support Association, so those numbers will likely be revised before the budget is finalized.

The school district’s state required On-Behalf contribution rates for the 2016 fiscal year are not yet available, according to the budget.

Called the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Teacher Retirement System, the two rates currently account for nearly $30 million of the school district’s budget, Jones said.

The preliminary budget, available on the school district’s website includes the staffing formulas and the breakdown of each school’s budget.

The next preliminary budget hearing will be held on March 2 in the borough assembly chambers in the borough building in Soldotna during the school board meeting.

Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.