School board approves budget, leans heavily on savings

With very little fanfare the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education passed a more than $161,206,000 budget operating budget that leans heavily on unassigned fund balance, or district savings, to balance revenues and expenditures during the upcoming fiscal year.

During its Monday worksession and subsequent meetings, members spoke about their frustration with the uncertainty of state and borough funding levels, however aside from approving the addition of funding for the Skyview Pool — the group made no changes to the document. 

“When we pass this budget, we’re doing so with the understanding that the amount of monies that are brought forward in Juneau will reduce the amount of fund balance usage we have significantly,” said Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones. “But, we’re still looking at, next year, having concerns and problems with a deficit budget.”

Board members unanimously approved the budget, but some spoke about their reservations with its form. 

“We’re going to approve a budget that we don’t think is the right budget, we don’t think is an adequate budget,” said board member Sunni Hilts.  “We cannot raise revenues in our school district, we are dependent on the state and the borough and we do not know what that (funding) amount will be in any year, we never know.”

Board member Tim Navarre agreed with Hilts.

“As much as I hate to pass a budget like this that goes off of assumptions — fortunately we have fund balance, if we didn’t have fund balance right now we wouldn’t be able to approve a balanced budget,” Navarre said. “That just shows you the importance of fund balance.”

At the state level, funding for schools could be much higher than district administration had originally anticipated. The current budget is built on the assumption that no changes would be made to the Base Student Allocation, or the per-student amount of money given to the district by the state annually.

Instead, Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed budget included an increase of $85 per student and the House recently passed a measure that would further increase it to $5,981 by 2016.

In addition about $55 million in one-time funding has been allocated for school districts statewide — thought that amount could change by the time the legislature ends its session.

“We’re at the mercy of the state, “Navarre said. “Those are the things we have to fight for, so we continue to do it… this is how districts across the state put their budgets together — under these scenarios.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s final budget should be available in June while the state legislature is scheduled to end its second session April 20. 

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