Board set to study $93 million budget for school district

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2006

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education is expected to vote tonight on a nearly $93 million general fund budget for the coming school year.

Prefacing a memo to board members with a statement about the budget being “in a state of transition from a funding standpoint,” Chief Financial Officer Melody Douglas recommended the board approve the fiscal year 2007 general fund budget of $92,951,047 and a total budget of $112,315,918.

The approximate $19 million difference encompasses the special revenue grant funds the district anticipates receiving.

To reach the $92.9 million target, the school district is recommending an increase of the pupil-to-teacher ratio by three, which would result in a $2,870,000 budget reduction.

In Douglas’ memo, she said it is likely the state Legislature will address education funding near the end of the current session.

“Gov. (Frank) Murkowski’s proposed base student allocation of $5,347 appears to have legislative support,” Douglas said.

She said the $5,347 per-student amount is an increase that would add $90 million in education funding statewide.

Douglas was in Juneau on Thursday and said she was hearing some discussion among legislators about changing the area cost differential, which has historically left the Kenai Peninsula underfunded.

“The talk I’m hearing now is the most positive I’ve heard in a long time,” Douglas said.

Peninsula school board members have been considering the budget since January and at their last meeting, in Homer, recommended a budget figure reflecting borough funding of schools at the cap, according to Douglas.

In mid-March, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams proposed funding schools at almost $1.3 million below the estimated $36.8 million legal cap on local contributions.

The borough assembly is not expected to vote on the mayor’s resolution until after today’s school board meeting.

The school board is slated to consider approval of a revised policy regulating the establishment and operation of charter schools within school district school buildings.

The policy includes guidelines for charter schools sharing space with established district schools.

While no applications are currently pending to start a charter school on the Kenai Peninsula, four charter schools already exist here: Fireweed in Homer, Montessori in Soldotna, Kaleidoscope in Kenai’s Sears Elementary School and Aurora Borealis in the Kenai Alternative School.

The board is also scheduled to look at a policy governing student nutrition and physical activity, which sets down standards for food and beverages available at schools. Soda pop is not included in a list of beverages approved for sale.

A Project GRAD USA representative is to present changes in the organization’s funding commitment to the district’s programs that assist students in rural schools graduate and encourage them to attend college.

Additionally, the school board also is expected to vote on a resolution asking state and local government leaders to declare children to be their top priority.

Because the district has improving the safety, health and education of children as its top priority, it seeks to have other leaders join in declaring children “Alaska’s Top Priority.”

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