It all adds up: Budget 101: A look at the cost of education on the Peninsula

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010

With the preliminary 2010-2011 budget for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District at close to $129 million, there's no easy way for most people to visualize a number that big.

Even using visual aids fails. If the district budget was accounted for with marbles, they could fill more than 150 bathtubs, for example. But who, after all, has ever seen 150 bathtubs?

When district officials presented their preliminary budget to the public earlier this year, Dave Jones, the assistant superintendent, made a point of encouraging attendees to visit their neighborhood schools to get an idea of how the district spends its money in the classroom.

The Clarion took Jones up on his offer and visited Brittney Johnson's fifth-grade class at Mountain View Elementary in Kenai last week.

The district is anticipating $3,809,467 in expenditures at Mountain View Elementary next year.

If every item in Johnson's room had a price tag on it, the one on Johnson would by far be the biggest.

Just about 95 percent of the school's total yearly budget, or $3,626,538 is earmarked for the salaries and benefits of certified and non-certified staff.

This includes more than just teachers. The paychecks of the principal ($115,248 district average salaries and benefits), assistant principal ($110,580 district average salaries and benefits), two secretaries district ($52,067 district average salaries and benefits), four custodians ($49,270 district average salaries and benefits), 15 special service aides ($43,105 district average salaries and benefits) and two nurses ($53,633 district average salaries and benefits) along with the school's 20 classroom teachers ($81,640 district average salaries and benefits) are included in that number.

Staffing for schools across the district is based on formulas that take into account enrollments and geographic locations.

The rest of Mountain View's budget, $182,000, is used to keep the lights on, heat the building, purchase supplies, buy curriculum materials and replace technology, among other things.

Utilities alone suck down $109,098.

Buying new textbooks, which are replaced on a multi-year cycle, can add up quickly as well; a single book can cost more than $70.

Instructional supplies tap a large chunk of the school's budget as well. The 865,000 sheets of plain white copy paper Mountain View goes through cost close to $5,500. Don't forget construction paper, glue sticks, scissors, markers and pencils for assignments and projects. Those cost the school another $3,000 at least.

That's all on top of a list of supplies schools often recommend students or parents purchase.

When the kids go home at the end of the day it's time to clean up. The school spends close to $500 for disinfectants, bleach and wipes. It needs almost $2,000 worth of waste can liners and more than $2,500 for paper towels.

Other custodial supplies include things like toilet paper, tissue and ice melt, just to name a few.

Concern about the spread of the flu last fall lead the district to buy jugs of hand sanitizer to put into all the classrooms.

Nursing supplies cost the school about $500 for things like Band-Aids, tongue depressors, single-use thermometers and so on.

These items, much like staffing, are also provided to a school based on district formulas.

The school district's board of education is set to vote on the 2010-11 budget on at their next meeting on April 5, at 7 p.m. in the Borough Administration Building.

Dante Petri can be reached at

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