Board of Education presents preliminary budget despite fiscal uncertainties

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education presented a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018, cautioning that it is a work in progress since budget allocations from the state and borough are still unknown.

 

The district has projected an enrollment for fiscal year 2018 of 8,781 students and an expenditure total of $137,847,904, which includes all expenditures and transfers for the general fund budget.

In calculating fiscal year 2018’s revenue, the district has kept revenue sources at a “status quo,” according to Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones.

The state Foundation Funding Formula would allocate approximately $79.5 million of funding from the state according to the budget documents. The district has also budgeted with the expectation that the Kenai Peninsula Borough support will stay the same as in 2016 and 2017, at approximately $48 million, about $3 million shy of the total allowable contribution.

Together, the total general fund revenue for fiscal year 2018 totals $136,747,518.

Even with status quo revenue from both the state and borough, the district faced a deficit of about $3.45 million. To counteract this, the district cut several expenditures totaling about $2.45 million.

The district eliminated five full time employees unallocated for class size adjustment, 6.5 full time employees from high schools with a pupil to teacher ratio increase of two, one full time pupil services coordinator and one full time accounting specialist position. They also enacted cuts to the extra-curricular safety fund totalling $10,000 and English Language Learners tutors totalling about $600,000, according to budget documents.

The preliminary budget presents a reduction to custodial hours by 30 minutes each day, which was an idea brought up at a meeting between custodians and district representatives, but administrators are already anticipating a change to the proposed cut.

According to Jones, by reducing full time custodian’s hours, no employees would be in danger of losing their position or benefits and the district would save about $270,000. However, after further discussions with custodians and Patty Sirois, President of the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, the union representing the district’s custodians, it seems that eliminating positions through attrition will be a better option.

In lieu of the hourly reductions, seven full time custodial positions would have to be cut and currently the district has 2.5 full time positions open with another two employees who have expressed interest in resigning, Jones said.

“I did the real math, and (hourly reduction) equates to a six and one quarter percent reduction in (custodians) pay,” Sirois said. “And unless everybody is willing to take that six and a quarter reduction, we need to look at it through attrition first.”

According to the budget presented by the district, the remaining deficit of $1,100,386 will be taken from its fund balance.

The Board of Education, though, expressed their concern that state funding cuts could derail the 2018 budget.

“Has anyone seen the Senate’s education funding bill yet?” Jones asked during a budget work session. “I’ve been looking for it. The best rumor that’s out there is that it’s going to come out at five percent.”

A five percent cut by the state to the base student allocation would increase the budget deficit by $5.29 million, according to district documents. The district anticipates counteracting any cuts from the state by requesting the borough to fund to their maximum allowable contribution of about $51 million.

“We anticipate requesting maximum funding from the borough to offset any cuts from the state,” Superintendent Sean Dusek said at a budget work session. “Everything is very fluid right now.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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