After months of debate, public comment and one municipality pledging funds to keep it open, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School district on Friday announced it had restored funding for the Skyview High School pool.
Citing the changing fiscal climate at the state and local levels, district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff wrote in an email that district administration would recommend funding for the facility be reinstated in the district’s 2014-15 fiscal year budget.
The district’s Board of Education is scheduled to take up the budget during its Monday meeting.
District administration officials had estimated about $180,000 in annual savings with the closure of the pool.
When district administration first floated the idea of closing the pool, its financial outlook was bleak as a projected $4.5 million shortfall had board of education members and school district staff looking for ways to trim the budget.
However, as the state’s legislature has worked through the 2014 session, the proposed based student allocation — or amount of money per student the district receives from the state — was increased in Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget proposal and again in the state’s House which raised it by $185 for the upcoming fiscal year.
Additionally, the state has appropriated $55 million in one-time funding, though the final numbers could change before the legislative session concludes.
The current preliminary budget document set to be discussed and voted upon by board of education members will cover the district’s shortfall with several million pulled from the district’s health care fund balance and unassigned general fund balance, a type of district savings.
In a letter to fellow board members and school district administration Dan Castimore, a board member representing District 1, wrote that the district needed to make some changes in pool operations.
The nearly $200,000 price tag on operating a pool is equivalent to three full-time teachers, Castimore wrote.
“In an era of ever tightening budgets this is not a sustainable cost for the District to carry,” he wrote in the email. “If we are to maintain these swimming pools as recreation facilities for the public, some changes are needed.”
Castimore also suggested making the school district’s pools more accessible to the public and raising the fees to rent them.
During its Wednesday meeting, the Soldotna City council voted to allocate $50,000 toward keeping the pool open after the KPBSD administration asked the city to help support the facility.
More than 200 community members signed a petition to keep the facility open at Sweeney’s Clothing in Soldotna, those signatures were given to the board of education during its March 3 meeting.
The pool and several other budgetary issues will be taken up during the Board of Education’s work sessions and regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. in the borough building in Soldotna.