School district seeks foundation funding increase

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2005

Due to a funding gap of at least $23 million between Gov. Frank Murkowski's budget plan and what the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will need next year, the school board plans to request from the state an increase in foundation funding, the amount of money allocated for each student in Alaska.

Resolution 04-05-3, which will come up in Monday's meeting at 7 p.m. in the Borough Building, would call for $85 million for schools, as opposed to the governor's $62 million budget, resulting in a base student allocation of $4,995 in 2006 for each student.

The board is faced with three options: It could accept the governor's statewide proposal, which would cover $4,880 per student; it could join with the Alaska Association of School Boards in requesting a base student allocation of $4,995, which, according to AASB, is money needed to offset basic program offerings lost through enrollment declines; or it could request an allocation of $5,200 per student to "meet the obligations of the fiscal year 2006 KPBSD budget to handle additional class size needs as outlined in the legislative priorities," the resolution states.

School district Chief Financial Officer Melody Douglas spoke to the second option, saying, "($4,995) is an estimate of what the need would be to most of the districts in the state but won't necessarily meet every district's needs."

Douglas said this is due to increases in negotiated salaries, benefits including retirement, health insurance and other insurance costs.

"The really good part of the governor's proposal is that it is two-year funding and includes inflation proofing. That's all very positive," she said.

The call for the adjustment in budget comes as the district was hit heavily with Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) and Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) increases. Douglas said the increased costs are ongoing and will hit the district annually.

On Monday the board also is expected to discuss making kindergarten classes full day, where they traditionally have been half days.

School board member Debbie Brown said there are some legitimate concerns with the full-day kindergarten proposal.

"Staffing, strategy and cost will be issues to be talked about. We could use plenty of discussion from the public," she said.

Brown said there are issues related to whether parents want to enjoy their child's younger years or give them more education.

"Some families have issues with transportation for half-day kindergarten. But people also value the time they have with their kids at home. It seems to me there is a strong perception that the kind of attention paid to kindergarten education pays off," she said.

When asked if she had a prediction of how the board would act on the issue, Brown said, "From the preliminary discussion, I believe we will go along with the idea."

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