College staff, students protest cuts

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011

About 30 students and staff members from Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai RiverCampus waved signs outside the Kenai Peninsula Borough Administration Building in Soldotna Tuesday afternoon in protest of borough Mayor Dave Carey's proposed budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Kenai Peninsula College supporters protest proposed borough budget cuts that target the college during a rally in front of the borough building Tuesday afternoon.

A couple students in green frog students hopped along the sidewalk, as others sported neon green signs with slogans like "Education is Priceless," while waving at passing cars at the busy intersection.

"I hold a sign that says 'Don't trash my education,' because he wants to cut funding to build the trash facility in Homer," said Rachel Simons, a student and commerce officer at the college.

Bill Howell, the college's director of student services, said the mayor's proposed cuts to Kenai Peninsula College would affect the JumpStart program, which subsidizes tuition for high school seniors, could close the career center, and cut funding for the adult basic education program that allows students to complete coursework for their GEDs.

"People will be laid off," he said.

A third of the money the college gets from the borough goes to its Kachemak Bay Campus, so that institution will be impacted too.

"They'll lose several positions," Howell said.

In 1990, borough voters passed a proposition that dedicates one-tenth of a mill of property taxes to Kenai Peninsula College, according to Howell. That amounted to $637,570 last year. That's why he is so unhappy with the mayor's proposed cut -- because the voters elected to give their money to the college.

"I recognize he has the legal authority but I question his moral authority," he said.

Spring Sibayan, a process technology student at the college, said he was there to protest the budget cuts for his younger sister.

"She's a junior at the high school and wants to do the JumpStart program next year," he said.

The budget cuts would mean she couldn't participate in that, he said.

"I don't want them for myself or my sister," Sibayan said.

Richard McKerley, a new student at KPC said he was protesting Tuesday to support the adult basic education program, something he took advantage of at UAA.

"Without that I wouldn't have been able to get back into school," he said.

Shauna Thornton, student union president, said there were 150 students who wanted to join the protest Tuesday but could not because they were in classes.

She said it was a "total coincidence" that the college's demonstration was taking place during the official unveiling of the borough building's new sign for George A. Navarre, which Carey and assembly members attended.

"I'm sure this won't be the only day," she said regarding student protests.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members expressed their dismay at the college's protest during the borough building's dedication at their meeting Tuesday night.

"I think in my mind it was the most disrespectful thing that could be done," during the time to honor a family that has done so much for the borough, said Gary Knopp, assembly president.

"It made me wonder that funding the college all these years obviously hasn't been working very well," he said.

Pierce was also non-plussed about the protest. He said it's easy for people to complain, but rather than criticizing the decision makers they should be offering other solutions to help do more with less. Before people wave signs that says "don't affect me" they should educate themselves on the exact budget, Pierce said.

The budget process is just beginning for fiscal year 2012. The final budget usually is approved by the assembly in June.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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