School board approves its budget

Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

With contract negotiations still pending and a recent announcement by the borough mayor suggesting the school district may not get the full local financial support it's had in years past, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved next year's budget.

The board gave unanimous support Monday night to a total fiscal year 2010 budget for all funds of $141,825,202.

The FY10 general fund budget is $123,739,902 with special revenue funds totaling $18,085,300. The budget includes local effort funding at the cap and an allocation of fund balance in the amount of $1,245,667.

That total number remains in flux however, something acknowledged by board members.

The district is in the midst of three-year negotiations with its employees, the results of which will change the present budget figures.

The approved budget also relies on receiving $43 million from the borough, something borough Mayor Dave Carey said might not happen when he outlined his borough budget plan on KSRM Radio on April 1.

He said then that the school board must put in place a district policy on its usage of the district's fund balance to receive his support. Carey was referring to the current money the school district has set aside in the General Fund fund balance

"As we are asked to provide $43 million of the district's funding, we have every right to say, 'What other groups of money do you have to assist in that?'" he said April 2.

The district has asked the borough to support its fiscal year 2010 budget and fund it to the cap, the maximum amount local government may contribute to the district budget, according to state statute.

This year that amounts to a little over $43 million, or approximately 35 percent of the district's entire budget.

District administrators however, feel there may be a disconnect between the new borough administration and the district.

"Given the scenario of this community collision, I don't know if the current communication process is effective, I think we need to do something about that," said Melody Douglas, district chief financial officer, told the board in a work session held before the regular meeting.

Board president Sammy Crawford, Kalifornsky Beach, seconded Douglas, saying, "I guess what concerned me the most about this whole thing was the lack of understanding about our fund balance. Since I've been on the board for 10 years, I've thought that we always operated with at least a two-month surplus."

If funding doesn't come through, board members and administrators expressed frustration as to how they would cut the budget further.

"The collision of a declining economy, declining revenue is a place where we knew we were going to be and I think that our records are transparent and there are no hidden pockets of money in this budget" Douglas said. "The question becomes, with an organization that is 80 percent salary and benefits, what is it that we do?"

"This isn't a budget that has fat oozing out of it, OK. The marrow has been sucked out of this budget for over 15 years," said Dave Jones, district assistant superintendent.

Implications for a funding shortfall have already threatened the jobs of 84 non-tenured teachers up for contract approval.

The contract approvals were initially on Monday's agenda, but District Superintendent Donna Peterson said they were pulled because of the uncertainty.

"Our concern now is losing those folks," she said.

Before voting on whether or not to approve the FY10 budget, Joe Arness, Nikiski, proposed an amendment that offered the administration provisional approval to reissue non-tenured contracts at the administration's discretion.

"We have 84 contracts that we cannot approve and so we place teachers in the position of not knowing if they have a job next year or not," Arness said.

His amendment provided the administration support in reissuing the contracts.

The board voted unanimously to approve the amendment.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is at 7 p.m. May 4 at Seward High School in Seward.

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



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