Nenana district short of cash for dorm loan

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Nenana City School District will fall short of the money needed for one of two payments this year on a federal loan used to build a dormitory for high school students in the community.

According to Donnette Herren, the district's finance director, the district has budgeted about $564,000 for the dorm complex this year, which includes the first $141,000 payment on the building.

Superintendent Ken Eggleston hopes grants will come through to make the other payment, due in June.

The city of Nenana took out a $4.5 million federal loan to build the center. The school district, which gets money from the state based on student enrollment, is responsible for making the $280,000 in loan payments each year.

Students live at the center and attend Nenana High School.

If the center averages 64 students during the four-week October count period, those students will bring in about $618,000, according to the finance director.

As of last week, the center had enrolled 44 girls and 22 boys. Last school year, its first, the center started with 44 students, but ended up with about two dozen. Eighteen of those returned this year. The facility was designed to hold up to 96 students.

''That money we get from the state for the students is for their education,'' Eggleston said. ''When I looked at the budget this year and reoriented the budget, it doesn't really speak to the real cost of housing the students here.''

If the district cannot make a payment, that responsibility falls to the city of Nenana. But with a yearly budget of about $590,000, Mayor Jason Mayrand said the payment would be a stretch.

''I don't have $140,000 kicking around in my general fund,'' he said.

The district this year is taking several steps to save money.

It is asking students to pay $500 each to help defray center costs, Eggleston said. Rather than hire full-time cooks, dorm parents and the students are doing all the cooking this year.

Eggleston cut several administrative and teaching positions in the district, and has scaled back funding for student activities such as athletic travel. The budget is further strained by increased insurance costs, he said.

Eggleston said savings measures and strong enrollment won't be enough to sustain the center in the long term.

''In retrospect, I think the district and the city thought there would be some help from the Legislature to help fund this entity,'' Eggleston said. That hasn't been forthcoming.

''I think that if we are going to make this work over the long haul, we are going to have some kind of help from the Legislature to offset some of the costs,'' he said.



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