School district hosts first budget meetings

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is crowdsourcing for a second year to assist with budget development.

Superintendent Sean Dusek and Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones held a crash course on the sources and uses of available funds for the fiscal year 2017, broadcast with Microsoft Lync videoconferencing to 23 school sites Oct. 22. The two administrators explained the school district is virtually dependent on state and local allocations.

“Does Board of Education have the authority to raise revenue? No they cannot. They can’t raise taxes, that is the area of the (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Assembly,” Jones said. “It can’t tell the state to give more.”

State funding accounts for 64 percent of the school district’s unrestricted general fund balance. The Kenai Peninsula Borough provides 35 percent and 1 percent comes from other sources, such as the federal government. The majority of the borough’s annual local contribution is raised through taxes, Jones said.

“When, in the summer, I go to the grocery store and have to stand behind a bunch of tourists and dipnetters from Anchorage, I just say, ‘Thanks for coming.’”

Revenue taken in is either put toward specific “special” services such as food service or transportation, or general funds, which the board must approve, for programs and salaries among other general activities.

Following nearly $1.5 million in cost reductions by consolidating pool operations, reducing utility budgets and increasing the pupil-teacher ratio at the secondary level, the school district still had to schedule a nearly $3.5 million use of the fund balance.

“That’s a significant use,” Jones said. “To move forward, that places a burden on how we are going to fund next year.”

It is important to remember employee benefits and salaries account for more than 81 percent of the school district’s budget, Jones said. While the board decided to renew all existing non-tenured part and full-time teacher contracts for the 2016 fiscal year, 9.5 positions were eliminated to cut costs, he said.

Tampering with the remaining expenditures is also tricky. For example, making an across-the-board, 10 percent cut to all existing programs and services won’t work because “you can’t say, ‘OK, we just won’t eat on Fridays,’” Jones said.

So, the school district has to go in and look at individual programs and services and see where efficiencies can be found, and that’s where the school district is looking to the public for suggestions, because more use of the fund balance “moves us closer to a cliff,” Jones said.

Following the videoconference, community members, public officials and school district staff and administration discussed potential options for reducing expenditures, which will be compiled and presented to the board of education at the Nov. 2 regularly scheduled meeting.

At the Kenai Central High School meeting location, school principal Alan Fields was onsite to facilitate the discussion Thursday.

Board member Tim Navarre was also in attendance at the high school. He said once the budget is finished, schools don’t have much “discretionary, if any” leftover monies.

Assembly member Blaine Gilman of Kenai said he sees the lack of funding as a “revenue issue.” Not much more can be streamlined at individual schools, he said.

“This is a state fix,” Gilman said.

Kenai Peninsula Educat-ion Association President David Brighton, also in attendance, suggested everyone start calling legislators and advocate for more state funding.

“We can’t cut our way to a balanced budget, and at the same time we can’t tax our way to a balanced budget,” Brighton said.

The entire current budget document for the 2017 fiscal year is on the school district’s website at under the finance page, said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff. It includes a breakdown of each school’s budget.

More in News

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Homer City Council candidate Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Traffic moves north along the Sterling Highway shortly after a fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The state is seeking federal funding for a project aimed at improving safety along the Sterling Highway between mileposts 82.5 to 94, or between Sterling and Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to federal funding for Sterling Highway project

The project is aimed at improving highway safety between Sterling and Soldotna.

Ethan Benton (left) and Laura Walters of Kodiak win the vaccine lottery for the Alaska Chamber's week one vaccine lottery giveaway "Give AK a Shot." (Screenshot)
State names winners in 1st vaccine lottery

A Valdez and Kodiak resident took home checks for $49,000 each.

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
A podium marks the beginning of a StoryWalk at Soldotna Creek Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The project was discontinued in August due to vandalism.
Vandalism ends Soldotna library program

The StoryWalk was made possible by a $2,500 donation from the Soldotna Library Friends.

Juneau Empire file
The Coast Guard medevaced a 90-year-old suffering stroke-like symptoms near Ketchikan aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium like this one, seen in Juneau, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Coast Guard medevacs man from yacht near Ketchikan

The 90-year-old suffered symptoms of a stroke.

James Varsos, also known as “Hobo Jim,” poses for a photo during the August 2016, Funny River Festival in Funny River, Alaska, in August 2016. (Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Hobo Jim’ opens up about recent terminal cancer diagnosis

Varsos was named Alaska’s official “state balladeer” in 1994.

Most Read