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Decision surprises some

Posted: Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly granted the school district its funding wishes Tuesday night.

The district received funding "to the cap," the maximum amount state statute allows local government to contribute to the district budget, after Resolution 2009-040 was passed, determining the amount to be provided to the school district from local sources for fiscal year 2010. Borough Mayor Dave Carey recommended that the assembly provide the school district with $40 million, about $3 million less than the district had requested.

An amendment was made by Seward Assemblyman Ron Long, however, to revise that figure and take it to the cap.

The amendment passed on a five-to-four vote, as did the resolution.

"I believe in funding to the cap; I think it's important," said Assemblyman Hal Smalley.

"Right now we can afford more than is being asked of us," said Assembly Vice President Pete Sprague.

Four assembly members disagreed.

Gary Knopp, Charlie Pierce and Paul Fischer all said they need more information before voting to fund education to the cap. Assemblyman Gary Superman, of Nikiski, said though the borough might have the money to fund education fully this year and possibly next year, it won't be able to do so year after year as it has in the past.

Pierce, Knopp, Fischer and Superman opposed both the amendment and resolution.

The assembly's actions came as a surprise to some.

"We weren't thinking they were going to vote on (the funding) last night," LaDawn Druce, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, said Wednesday.

"The conventional wisdom was that it would be postponed to May 19. That was a little bit of a surprise, and welcomed," she said, saying she was glad the borough took action sooner rather than later.

Druce said she sees this as a temporary victory.

"I think it eases concerns in the short term. This is one year; we can't look past that," she said.

Melody Douglas, chief financial officer for the district, said she has concerns about future budget cycles.

"With tough economic times ahead, as a public community we need to look at what we want our local government to provide and as a community we need to inform ourselves on all of the issues to address what the future might bring," she said.

Douglas said the struggle for local funding seen during the past month is one she expects to see again in the future.

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



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