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KPBSD to talk projected $4.5 million shortfall

Posted: February 2, 2014 - 9:46pm

The Kenai Peninsula Board of Education will meet today to discuss a projected budget shortfall of more than $4.5 million for the 2014-15 school year.

Previously, administrators had projected a difference between revenues and expenditures of about $3.4 million, however the original figure did not factor in the district’s new salary schedule, which includes 2 percent across the board raises for faculty and staff.

The district’s preliminary budget projection has been available since November, but has been revised since then as it is not due in its final form to the board of education and school board until mid-April.

The budget projection also includes $1.741 million in “one-time” funding from the state which it has received for the last three years.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said the district did not put that funding into its budget projections last year, but as it was included in Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget this year, the district included the amount in its own projections.

Last year the school district spent about $1.2 million more than it brought in, Jones said.

“The board basically said well, what we want to do is look at making reductions in that amount so we can start approaching and helping the problem so we don’t get to the point where it’s too big to solve,” Jones said.

The board is required to approve a balanced budget — one in which the general fund revenue and expenditures are equal — and has been meeting to discuss possible sources of revenue and ways to cut spending.

Board members have discussed closing the Skyview High School pool and will hold a work session the subject today 4:30 p.m. at the borough building in Soldotna.

“I know how much our communities have come to appreciate access to these pools in our communities. But when we are looking at cutting teachers, and each pool represents 2-3 teacher salaries, I think we need to better examine who pays for these pools,” wrote board member Daniel Castimore according to his request to discuss to the district for more information on the possible closure.

Administration has projected 8,773 students according to background information on the budget provided to board members in advance of the meeting.

The school board has already approved raising the student to teacher ratio by half a student resulting in a cut of about 10 teachers across the district. Jones said the cut in teachers represented a “substantial portion” of the $1.3 million in cuts the board of education has made over the past year to deal with the shortfall.

While the district has yet to issue contracts, Jones said they would be discussed during tonight’s Board of Education meeting and being able to reduce positions through attrition was a possibility.

“When you’ve got 85 percent of your budget in salaries and benefits, when it comes time to cut that’s where you go,” Jones said.

Other potential sources of revenue include the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which funded the school district at $43.5 million last year, but could provide a further $2.5 million before reaching its cap.

The board will discuss the budget at 3 p.m. in the borough building, 144 N. Binkley Street in Soldotna.

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

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