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Looming fiscal cliff could affect KPBSD spending

Posted: February 26, 2013 - 11:02pm  |  Updated: February 28, 2013 - 12:46pm

A series of automatic federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday will cut more than $250,000 from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s budget in fiscal year 2014.

The cuts, also known as sequestration, would affect individuals receiving funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Title I spending most significantly, said KPBSD Superintendent Steve Atwater.

“We would be reducing both support staff as well as certified staff in response to having less federal money,” Atwater said.

Currently, the federal government funds about $5.4 million of the district’s budget and sequestration would be a 5.3 percent cut, Atwater said.

Title I funding, which is a program designed to improve academic achievement for disadvantaged students, would lose more than $103,000 in funding while IDEA would be cut by $126,000.

Atwater said Title II, a teacher quality state grant for more than $850,000 would be cut by about $45,000 and Title III, money for bilingual education, would lose about $700 from a budget of about $13,000.

Career and Technical Education funding would lose $10,000 from it’s $196,000 funding.

Those cuts would not go into place until the next fiscal year.

“We have time and the money is a shot, but it’s not a killer,” Atwater said. “It’s significant but it’s not as if we’re getting kicked in the gut. We’re getting stepped on the foot.”

Title I funding is used both for economically disadvantaged students but also to fund preschool programs.

“We would be reducing our level of preschool,” Atwater said.

While some of the funding loss would result in program and service losses, IDEA funding is different and if funding is reduced for certain students the district would have to step in and pay the difference.

“Once the children have an (Individual Education Plan) that’s a binding contract (and) if we arranged to deliver services to a child then we would have to makeup for the shortfall,” Atwater said.

Statewide, spending cuts could affect everything from work-study jobs and military readiness, to law enforcement and public safety funds and the STOP Violence Against Women Program.

On Sunday, The White House released a state-by-state breakdown of how the sequestration cuts would affect services.

The numbers were compiled from federal agencies and its budget office but were only based on the $85 billion in initial cuts from the current fiscal year, or March through September, according to the Associated Press.

The cuts would eventually amount to $1 trillion over the next decade if left unchanged.

According to the White House numbers, Alaska would lose about $1.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education and about $1.9 million in funds for teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities. About 80 fewer low income students would get aid to help finance the cost of college and fewer students would get work-study jobs that help pay for college.

Head Start programs, which give young students access to early education would be eliminated for about 100 children in Alaska, according to White House data.

While there is potential for the state or Kenai Peninsula Borough to step in and cover the education funding shortfall, Atwater said the school district has yet to directly request the funds.

“We have requested an additional amount from the borough next year. We’ll see what they do,” Atwater said. “The additional money would be really welcome since we have a fiscal gap. We’re at a point where we don’t have enough revenue to keep doing what we’re doing.”

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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