A special election by mail will be taking place on the Kenai Peninsula this spring and an informational effort is being launched by educators and administrators to inform voters of their options.
Sam Stewart, Assistant Superintendent for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Dennis Dunn, KCHS Principal addressed the Kenai Chamber of Commerce last week regarding the ballot issue that would allow the Borough to increase the mil rate to fund co curricular activities. "This includes after school activities such as sports programs, drama productions, band and choir concerts that occur after school, also academic competitions such as Future Problem Solving, forensics, debate, there are just a lot of activities that fall under the co curricular umbrella," said Stewart. According to Stewart the School Board has been discussing the future of co curricular activities for the last three years and last year removed all travel allocations for co curricular. He anticipates that as the Board faces a $6.8 million dollar deficit next year that co curricular is likely to be an area that is cut instead of increasing teacher pupil ratio.
Stewart said that all indications are that there will be no additional funds coming from Juneau and that is why they are looking for other sources of funding to preserve co curricular activities. If the proposition is successful the Borough Assembly would be authorized to raise its funding specifically for co curricular activities by up to .5 mils. A half mil is the equivalent of $50 of property tax for every $100,000 of assessed evaluation. However, a yes vote would not mandate the Assembly impose the tax, "It's at the discretion of the Borough Assembly how they would fund co curricular activities, they may use budget reserves, or other revenues they have in order to fund the co curricular activities rather than increase the property tax by .5 mil. That would remain a decision for the Borough Assembly to make," said Stewart.
Dennis Dunn, KCHS Principal, joined Stewart at the informational presentation last week. Dunn speaking as a parent and 21 year veteran educator with the KPBSD said, "I have three children in the system, and I don't believe we fully understand what we would loose if co curricular goes away. The value of co curricular to our kids is not viewed as supplemental, they view it as an absolute part of their education and when kids talk about their high school experiences they reference the drama production or basketball trip as fundamental parts of their educational experience." Dunn added that students tend to perform better academically when they are involved in a co curricular activity.
Krista Altman is a recent KCHS graduate who is presently a volunteer for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and commented following the presentation, "In my experience not having a lot of backing at home for getting my homework done or having a goal to graduate, but as a cheerleader and choir member, those activities drove me to get the grades so that I could continue to participate in those activities. I really don't know if I would have graduated if there hadn't been co curricular activities." Altman added that many of her friends were in the same situation and estimated that as high as one third of the students continue their education because of co curricular activities. As a taxpayer now she said she would be willing to pay a tax increase in order to continue co curricular for future students, and if it were to come from her Permanent Fund Dividend check she said, "That's a hard one, it's a touchy issue, but I think that I would be willing to give up a part of my dividend for that, but not all of it."
Information sheets on the Mail Ballot proposition will be available at the KPBSD website, at schools, or at the Borough Building in Soldotna. According to the Borough Clerk's office, ballots are scheduled to start being mailed March 8th.
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