To get through the 2013-2014 school-year, the Kenai Peninsula School District took $1.24 million from its savings.
Now, to make up for that deficit spending, the district will look to cut $1.24 million in 2015 — the likely target of those cuts will be salaries and benefits.
The Kenai Peninsula School Board is expected to direct the administration to cut next year’s budget by the amount of $1.24 million when they prepare next year’s budget. A starting point of those projected cuts will likely be found in the largest piece of the pie — salaries and benefits.
“That will then be our starting point,” Kenai Peninsula School District Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said Thursday.
The board recognized that the district is spending more money than it has, and, while it can’t keep spending, the district needs to reduce the budget so it does not get to the point where it has no fund balance left and it has to make big cuts instead of making more reasoned reductions, Jones said
“When you spend 82 percent of your budget in salaries and benefits, when you go to cut, your going to need to address those areas,” Jones said.
Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Neil Denny said that Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Steve Atwater last week told the union that the cuts would likely not impact tenured certified teaching staff, beyond those lost to attrition and the small percentage of teachers that leave the district each year on their own.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that will be the case,” Denny said.
What does worry the union is Atwater’s careful wording, which did not include classified staff such as custodians, nurses, secretaries and paraprofessionals that work with teachers in special education classes. Losses of those positions can create a great deal of heartache, Denny said.
“That’s a huge concern for us,” Denny said.
Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association President Patty Sirois said that her organization had not yet had the chance to speak with Atwater about pending cuts or know what those proposed cuts might look like for support staff.
“In the past support staff have suffered the loss of positions and hours,” Sirois said. “Of course, we hope that won’t be the case in 2015.”
That the cuts were pending first emerged to the public during a presentation at the Sept. 3 Kenai Borough Assembly meeting, during which Atwater told the assembly that the district used a “pre-audited amount” of $1.24 million from its reserves for district operations. The amount on the books this fall will likely be $738,000 used of reserves, he said.
“That is because the borough did not use the in-kind budgeted money for maintenance,” Atwater said, explaining that the money comes back to the district and is accounted for as a fund balance.
“The district will reduce its expenditures for the next year by that amount,” Atwater said. “It is a significant change that has not been done in a while.”
Also part of the budget issue is that student enrollment continues to decline. The final student numbers for the current school year will come from a four-week October count, which starts next month.
Last week, Jones explained that the proposed budget recommendations for the next school year will be given to the school board sometime in January, with more details following in February.
“By law, by April we have to pass a budget and move it to the borough assembly to have them act on it,” he said.
The $1.24 million cut is in reference to the 2015 budget. Work on that budget has been started, Jones said.
The school board looked at the FY13 budget’s projection of revenue and expenditures and then the actual picture, Jones said.
“What really happened was when we looked at the revenues that we got and the expenditures that we controlled; the district spent $1.246 million dollars more in FY13 than we received,” he said. “That was the actual deficit instead of projected.”
The district had a real deficit of $1.24 million in FY13. The district needs to start addressing the problem because it does not have limitless fund balance, he said.
The school board wants the district, at the beginning of the FY15 budget process, to look forward and address the issue. Basically, the district will ask the same question it does every year.
“What would happen if we moved the budget forward based on the same needs that we have, how much would that cost?” Jones asked.
The district has formulas in place to determine the student to teacher ratio. The formulas for each building then help the district plan for teachers.
With cuts, Jones said, the district has looked at areas for efficiency and in the non-instructional areas.
“So what we will probably have to look at is how can we adjust these staffing formulas to reduce the amount of staff that we have,” he said.
Jones said while cuts are not easy, the focus is on the students.
“That is the process that we are looking at right now and trying to work with is if we adjust these and make cuts that we need to, how can we do that with the least effect to the student in the classroom?” he said.