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Funding worries: Bill could temper future school money conflicts

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following the approval the school district's budget last week, district administrators are looking at a stalled House bill that could limit future local education funding conflicts.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education passed a nearly $129 million budget that seeks the maximum allowable local support from the Borough, however Borough Mayor Dave Carey commented at the end of the April 5 meeting that he couldn't quite support that.

Carey said he planned to recommend to the Borough Assembly that they provide about $251,000 shy of the $45.2 million the district is asking for from the borough.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones pointed to a House Bill 350 as at least one way to address local funding concerns.

The bill proposes to change the way districts are funded, and could result in a lowering of the "cap;" the maximum allowable amount the borough can give to the district per state statute.

For the Kenai, that drop could amount to about $3 million less, but Jones said the district is OK with that.

"What this would do for us is fix the equity problem and provide local tax payer relief and it would not cost us any revenue because the state would cover the difference," Jones said.

The problem? The bill currently sits in the House Finance Committee, a body chaired by Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, and Bill Stolze, R-Chugiak/Matanuska-Susitna Valley.

According to Jones, it was Mat-Su legislators who made a push in the early part of the last decade to stem the impact of escalating borough property values.

Starting in 2001, across the state, a borough's assessed property value increases from 1999 onward were halved before being calculated into the district's funding formula.

"What's happened is borough's assessed values have gone up, but they've only been charged for half that increase within the formula," Jones said.

He explained that this has caused an equity issue in boroughs like the Kenai.

Jones said that with a week left to go in the session, he has doubts the bill will make any progress.

"The folks in the Mat-Su don't see this as an equity issue as others in the state do," Jones said. "They don't see the importance of bringing it forward as much as some people do. It's just politics."

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com



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