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Community ideas on school district's finances wanted

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2003

It's time for Kenai Peninsula Borough residents to decide if they want to be part of the solution -- or part of the problem -- when it comes to some of the difficult decisions before the school district.

One way to be part of the solution is to attend one of several budget hearings scheduled for the next two weeks throughout the borough. The hearings are one place to get reliable information about some of the tough issues facing the district. Those issues include declining enrollment, employee contracts, beginning discussions on school consolidation, the size of classrooms, the number of district programs and the state's school-funding formula.

The issues, of course, are all related to money -- and that's why the upcoming budget hearings or so important. The hearings will provide information about the district's finances and offer the opportunity for the public to ask questions and make suggestions. District officials will linger after the hearings to further talk with people about their concerns.

If you haven't already marked the dates on your calendar, the hearing schedule is as follows:

Wednesday: The first public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. in the Soldotna High School library.

Thursday: A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the Seward High School auditorium.

Jan. 21: A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Kenai Central High School library.

Jan. 22: A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the Homer High School library.

Jan. 23: A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the Nikiski Middle-Senior High School library.

Feb. 3: The school board will conduct a work session to further discuss the budget.

Good information is the foundation for finding a solution to any problem. Without correct information, it's impossible to come up with viable answers. The answers may sound good; they just don't fit the problem.

Unfortunately, rumors have been the basis of how some people are viewing the school district's financial situation. If you have heard and believed any of the following rumors, you really should attend one of the upcoming budget hearings:

Rumor: The school district has paid its fuel bill for the next five years in order to hide money.

Fact: There are no accounting procedures that would allow the district to do that.

Rumor: Kenai Peninsula School District teachers have not received a raise in 10 years.

Fact: In 1991, a beginning teacher within the district received a base salary of $27,237. With health insurance and retirement benefits included, the total compensation for a beginning teacher in 1991 was $35,113. In 2002, a beginning teacher within the district received a base salary of $33,500. With health insurance and retirement benefits included, the total compensation for a beginning teacher in 2002 was $43,855.

Rumor: The district could use money it receives from grants for purposes other than intended to help solve its budget woes.

Fact: The district is committed to using grants for the purposes they were intended.

But don't take our word for it. Show up at one of the hearings and find out for yourself. Ask tough questions. Get educated.

Because the challenges facing the school district are best solved by the entire community. It's not just the school board's problem. It's not just the borough's problem. It's not just school administrators' problem. It's not just a problem for those with children in the district's schools. It's not just a problem for those employed by the district.

The state of the school district reflects the state of the entire community. How united are we? How committed are we to putting kids first? How much do we truly believe the quality of our work force and the health of our economy is directly related to the quality and health of our education system?

The way we come together -- or not -- as a community will determine the answer to those questions.

Oh, and if you want to be part of the school district's problems, deal in rumors and oppose any and all suggestions. There is no simple answer to the district's problems -- which means there is no solution that everyone will like. Decisions facing the district mean changes will have to be made, and those changes will be difficult -- like it or not.

Your ideas are needed and have been requested. The school district budget presentations not only are a learning opportunity but also an invitation to be part of the solution.



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