The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education took a leap into uncharted waters by passing a resolution that will ask the state of Alaska for just enough money to cover costs, no doubt a move requiring some degree of fortitude compared to years past.
Last month, several board members held a teleconference including the five largest school districts in Alaska in order to request an increase in base student allocation funds. The consensus at that time was to propose an increase from $4,880 to $4,995 to fill the $23 million funding gap in Gov. Murkowski's budget. The goal of the Association of Alaska School Board's proposal was to offset the costs of enrollment declines in grades seven to 12.
However, the board took this a step further and discussed a base student allocation of $5,200, the amount needed to cover rising costs specific to the district. This is the first year the school district has included a fiscal clause in its legislative priorities.
The board agreed to the higher amount on the basis that the peninsula school district requires more funds than other districts in the state due to its unique area cost differential status. The legislative priorities document states the high cost of doing business on the Kenai Peninsula warrants more state funding, even with a long history of maximum borough funding.
School board member Sandra Wassilie said the district has a good case to request more funds.
"We are unique. We are the most financially strapped school district in the state," she said.
Some discussion among board members brought hesitation regarding going beyond the amount AASB had discussed, but the concerns about time constraints and financial circumstance pushed the issue.
"When it comes to the table, I don' t want to be in the situation to tell Juneau we're still thinking about it. This needs to be settled and we need to jump while the iron is hot," Sunni Hilts, board member, said. "Normally I'd be conservative, but that hasn't seemed to help."
Nels Anderson, board member, agreed.
"They (the Alaska State Legislature) might just laugh it off, but we will have started the battle," Anderson said. "Will this get us any more money? Well, it sure can't lose us any."
The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution and will present the proposal to the state Legislature today and Tuesday in Juneau.
The next school board meeting is Monday at 7 p.m. in the Borough Building in Soldotna.
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