Study: school district boosts economy

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District plays a significant role in the borough’s economy, according to a study commissioned by the district. The study was an economic significance study conducted by Kim Pitney, an economics student at UAA, as an undergraduate research project through an Institute of Social and Economic Research Policy Research Award.


KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater, says the purpose of the study is to show the public the school district is spending its money responsibly.

“One of the things we feel responsible for is that when we spend public money, that we do so in a responsible way,” Atwater said. “We want to make sure that the public appreciates that the money that’s spent by the school district is really far reaching.”    

According to the study, the district provides 1,217 jobs with a payroll of more than $64 million and is the largest employer in the borough. The $64 million-plus that goes out of the district’s door additionally generates more than $33 million for the Peninsula economy as employees spend their paychecks. For example, when a district employee buys groceries, that money is going back into the economy, providing revenue for other businesses and employment for other residents.

The study was based on an Alaska-specific Input-Output model created by Dr. Scott Goldsmith, an economics professor at ISER. The model is customized for the Alaska economy to relate changes in spending in a particular industry to total changes in jobs and income in the Alaska economy, according to the study. The model calculates how expenditures continue to flow through the economy. As businesses and households re-spend the money they receive, this gives totals for indirect and induced spending, payroll and jobs.

“You need to try to make your model represent what’s going on in a local economy,” Goldsmith said.

ISER research associate Alexandra Hill, who was the main supervisor of the study, said it is important to note the money paid to the school district continues to benefit the community and flows back into the economy.

School Board Vice President Liz Downing said it is good for the public to have this information.

“I think the voters and the public at large don’t fully understand the impact that such a large employer has on not just how we benefit students, but how we benefit our communities,” Downing said. 

A study similar to this would normally come with a price tag of about $20,000, but since the study was an independent study course under the UAA undergraduate program, there was no cost to the school district, Hill said.

“I think it’s very valuable information,” school board member Tim Navarre said during the school board meeting on Monday. “We got it for nothing, instead of spending $20,000 thanks to a college student picking it up as a project.” 

To read the full study, visit the ISER website at


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