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Mayoral candidates mull school funding, issues

Posted: August 19, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: August 19, 2011 - 9:00am

Candidates vying for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor's seat kicked off debate season Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Education Association.

The six candidates were quizzed on several subjects, but mostly discussed school district funding with the standing-room-only-audience filling Froso's in Soldotna.

Gary Superman, a former assembly member and Nikiski resident, started the discussion.

"I am honest with people, I am open to people, I am open to dialogue and I am open to being educated and I am open to discussion," he said. "I am willing to work with all groups - that's the way I come to the process of making a decision."

Superman said his honesty is what separates him from the other candidates. His qualifications, he contends, are numerous.

"I'm intimately familiar with the budget process, the school district's budget process and all the functions throughout the borough," he said.

Superman said eight of the nine years he served on the assembly he supported funding the school district to the cap. Future funding, he said, would be a matter of "can we afford it or not?"

"That really underscores the idea that I am going to make some tough decisions," he said. "I think there are some tough decisions to make in the next three years. Are they budgetary in nature? I think they are. Will they have some impact on the school district? It depends on what our economy is going to do and fortunately I see our economy taking a step forward right now."

Nikiski resident Tim O'Brien spoke next and said he was strongly encouraged by residents to run for the position.

"I do not want to be a career politician," he said. "I'm a saw mill owner, I'm a lodge owner and what I think we need to focus on is putting land in the private sector. We can use 40 percent of the money for education and we have land ... so we need to put it up for sale. We can use that."

O'Brien said the school district and community both need to get on a "180 degree path" and use local resources to improve children's futures.

"I think that we need to put some time and some value into our children," he said. "I think we have kind of lost the goal and the direction."

O'Brien also argued that funding for the school district could be improved by utilizing the area's resources.

"Funding to the cap would be very easy," he said. "We have tunnel vision now - we do not need to raise our taxes, we need to gain infrastructure. We have jobs now, we have the hydropower ... we have got geothermal ... we have got the ferry system, we have got all kinds of communities coming into play. What we need to do is for some reason we are stuck on a few goals and we don't have to be."

Former state legislator and borough mayor Mike Navarre said above all, he is good at budgeting.

"I spent two years as chair of the House Finance Committee and it was the first time that funding for education had been increased for five years," he said. "...And it was funded to the cap and beyond when I was mayor. I've been a strong advocate for education, I'm a good consensus builder, a good team builder and a good problem solver."

However, Navarre said it would be a balancing act to fund the school district to the cap. That, he said, depends on revenue levels.

"The simple way to answer this would be to say ‘Yes,' but that would not be accurate," he said of funding to the cap. "The only thing I can say is ‘Maybe.'"

"It is part of the overall budget picture for the borough," Navarre continued. "Currently we are deficit spending in this borough, which means that revenues are less than expenditures and of course the biggest expense is for education."

However, Navarre said he would fall back heavily on his public office tenure and involvement in, and knowledge of the school system if elected mayor.

"I have 15 years in public office," he said. "I have a record of strong support for public education, so I urge you to take a look at my record and judge me based on my record. I'll listen, I'll work together with you and I'll be a problem solver."

Kasilof resident Debbie Brown said education has been "her life" and said many of the other women in her family were teachers.

"I don't do this for political reasons - education has been my life and I am very much sold on it," she said.

"I do understand what we are supposed to be doing in this business and I care very deeply about it," she said. "...We all in this economy will do the very best we can to get the product, the outcome that we must have."

Brown said she would "go to bat" for education funding despite the borough's "revenue-in problem."

"I will say, ‘Yes,' that I would like to support, I intend to support, if we can afford it, funding to the state cap, but not beyond like we have done in the past because I believe the economy is putting hardships on people," she said. "...I'm going to support this, but I am going to need all of you to support development, so that we can improve the revenue inside of this equation that we know exists."

Above all, Brown said she is good at building relationships.

"I really have put in years, whether it is as an individual, whether it is as a parent, as a community service person and in public service," she said. "So my record stands and I think you'll be very proud of what I do."

Former mayor Dale Bagley said during the six years he was in charge of the borough he was "always an advocate for the school district."

"I definitely understand a lot of the problems that the teachers have in the area," he said. "... I definitely understand the funding challenges and I look forward to serving as mayor again."

Bagley was also asked about funding the district to the cap.

"If needed, then yes we'll fund to the cap, but if not, I would not be advocating that every year, no matter what we would fund to the cap," he said. "It would depend on the money that is coming in."

Soldotna resident Fred Sturman said there will likely need to be "a lot of work" done to the school district.

"I think you guys need to really work hard on combining some of these schools and start cutting back," he said. "I know it is going to be hard - people are going to scream and harp, but don't forget, we don't have 900 kids in school today that we had 10 years ago and the money is not here today that we had 10 years ago."

Sturman said he would fall back on his experience in the private sector if elected.

"I don't have a lot of the qualifications that some of these people have other than I have basically managed money all of my life," he said. "I've run several businesses here in town that had large money spent per hour and we have always managed to come out and make a profit."

When asked about funding the district to the cap, Sturman said it is always easiest to "say, ‘Yes,' when you are spending somebody else's money."

"We are going to have to do more with less in the very near future," he said.

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jimbob
74
Points
jimbob 08/19/11 - 11:01 am
0
0
Vote Fred

The only candidate that will use common sense and limit the size of government is Sturman. All the rest are retreads, recycled, more of the same old samo. Vote Fred!

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 08/20/11 - 06:46 am
0
0
Fred is right

Unless borough citizens are prepared to pay a lot more property and sales taxes, there is no way that the borough will be able to continue to fund schools to the cap and beyond. There may be some projects coming on line that could bolster the local economy, but none will replace the major industrial facilities we have lost or are about to lose. Promising otherwise is simply pandering for votes. Unless the candidate is willing to substantially increase taxes there is no way that the borough can continue to fund education to the cap. Only Valdez and Dutch Harbor can afford to do so because of their small population and relatively large industrial base. Ours has been and continues to diminish. That's why our taxes have risen so dramatically.

I was impressed by the fact that Fred Sturman spoke against the borough's proposition to eliminate the grocery tax exemption. Fred was unwilling to support re-instituting the tax that targets local residents for groceries. No other tax targets locals so exclusively and negatively affects our senior citizens and working families with children.

If the candidates fail to stand against such oppressive taxation, what do you think they will do if elected Mayor? It's too easy to just raise taxes and blame the Assembly. I believe that Fred will stand his ground and protect the interests of all residents.

Fred has not dodged any issues and will not pander to special interests. We need to change the way that the borough has been doing business and Fred is the best candidate to make that happen.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 08/20/11 - 08:15 am
0
0
Do More with Less 8/20/11

News Flash for the ACT Tax Reformers.

The KPBSD Support Employees have been DOING MORE WITH LESS for decades now !

ACT screams for Budget Cuts then what happens ?

Upper Management then cut the School Teachers & the School Custodians while their elite world remains untouched.

When was the last time You heard of a Director or Assistant Superintendent or their exempt employees being cut ?

ACT screams for Do More with Less & it's the People that actually Do the Work at the School Level that are cut.

No I will NOT be Voting for Fred.

SPW Soldotna

cheapersmokes
1017
Points
cheapersmokes 08/20/11 - 01:20 pm
0
0
Education is just a big money pit!

Folks, All of the money spent on education is probably the poorest return on investment in history! It seems all of our schools are teaching down to the kids so that they can all get a high school diploma and become some one else's problem. Only give them more money if they have some strict guidelines that they have to meet. And giving the teachers a pay raise simply because they put in another year is a certain way to reward this poor performance. Put in a system of rewards for those teachers who are doing the extra work to ensure that their students learn and look very seriously at consolidating some school in the near future to cut costs and administrators. Do you have any idea how much it costs us every year simply for the Department of Education and they do not educate a single student but demand many reports just to justify their jobs and this burden is placed on all schools at their expense. It is time for some radical thought processes in our schools and government. Ask the teachers just how much money they need and I don't think you would every get an answer since they would always want more. Seems like a vote for Fred makes the most sense.

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 08/20/11 - 04:57 pm
0
0
Doing more with less ???

From what I understand, the KPB school district has had increases in budget EVERY YEAR, even while enrollment has been dropping. It appears they have been doing less with more.

I don't have the exact numbers, but I've seem the graphs based on the annual CAFR reports and this has clearly been the trend. I got this information during a public meeting with Fred. Unless Fred has bogus facts, which he claims comes direct from the required annual reports of the borough and school district, then our school district has not been doing more with less.

I don't want to see educational opportunity denied to our children. However, with declining revenue (sales tax collection is down and property tax collect is flat, while school funding increases) I can't see how this can continue without much higher taxes.

Fred has these graphs clearly shown on his website and they speak for themselves: http://votefred.us/issues.html. If these graphs are correct, how can the school district justify such increases, while enrollment is declining?

If upper management chooses to cut teachers and custodians rather than spending OUR tax dollars in the most effective way possible, should be just continue to send them more money?

I would like to see a solution other than more tax increases. Our children and local taxpayers deserve a better and more sustainable option than to just throw money into a system that doesn't run efficiently. Fred is the only candidate that addresses the problems with the facts, rather than telling everyone what they want to hear. If the politicians refuse to address the real facts, how can they fix the problem?

I want real facts and I want our Assembly and school Board to address the real problem. Unless someone can convince me that Fred has his facts wrong (which come from the CAFR (certified Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from the borough), then someone need to recognize and address these issues. Fred is the only candidate that recognizes the issue and is prepared to address the real problem. Its wrong to simply throw tax dollars at this problem, as our Borough Assembly and Administration has done in the past.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 08/21/11 - 08:27 am
0
0
Board Room vs The ClassRoom

I would challenge the supporters of the ACT Tax Reformers to actually spend some time & volunteer at their local school.

What happens at a School Board Meeting at the Admin. Bldg are Worlds apart from what happens at the school level.

Rather than stand before a audience with financial charts & argue about Taxes.
Volunteer to work after a capacity crowd local basketball game & You are the only one to do the clean-up.
Then tell me that the School Dist has too many Custodians.
You want Facts ? That will teach you the facts.
& No you won't experience that in any report or chart.
Doing Less with More ? What World are You From ?

SPW "Airborne"

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 08/21/11 - 01:07 pm
0
0
Doing less with more...

Doing less with more is supported by the facts. The schools educated less students and cost borough taxpayers much more money. Just because you don't like the facts, don't attack the messenger.

My world exists with facts, not rhetoric.

No one ever said that there were too many custodians. If the school district fired the custodians, then blame the school district. It not ACT that has cut the budget, because the schools have always been funded to the cap. No one has cut their budget and that is reflected in the factual material shown in Fred's graphs.

Take a look and see Mr. Wright. Here are the actual facts : http://votefred.us/issues.html How can you blame ACT? If you think the school needs more money, you need to go to the legislature and ask them to raise the cap. However, do you wish to have the Assembly kill your senior exemption? Where will the additional money come from, please tell me that???

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