District faces more money woes

Increase in retirement systems contributions takes big chunk of school funds

Posted: Monday, September 08, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is getting ready to tackle yet another financial challenge.

... (T)he increases will mean an additional expense of about $1.8 million in fiscal year 2005.

The already cash-strapped district is facing increasing costs in its contribution to employee pension plans and retirement health care benefits.

The Alaska Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) and Alaska Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) both are billions of dollars short of funds due to rising health care costs and poorly performing investments.

The board of directors for the systems recently voted to increase employer contribution rates for both funds, placing additional strain on the district's budget.

The TRS employer rate will increase 4 percent, while the PERS rate will jump 5 percent, the maximum allowed by state law. Both increases will be effective July 1, 2005.

As the largest employer in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, these rate increases will cost the district a significant amount.

According to a memo Melody Douglas, the district's chief financial officer, will present to the school board tonight, the increases will mean an additional expense of about $1.8 million in fiscal year 2005.

To deal with this expense, Douglas will recommend the board approve designating $1.6 million from the fund balance for PERS and TRS payments.

At the end of the 2003 fiscal year July 1, the district's fund balance -- essentially, its savings account -- was $6.6 million. Of that, about $4.5 million already was designated for future expenses such as encumbrances, inventory, charter schools and equipment. Setting aside $1.6 million for PERS and TRS would leave $536,053 in undesignated funds for future unexpected expenses.

The board will vote on the fund designation at its meeting tonight.

Also on the board's agenda is the selection of an architect to design the new Seward Middle School. The district's construction advisory committee reviewed submitted proposals Aug. 29 and is recommending Architects Alaska for the project. If the school board approves the architect selection, the contract will go before the borough assembly for approval.

The new middle school will replace the current dilapidated building with funds from a bond issues approved by voters last October. Construction is expected to begin in April.

The board also will hear a first reading of a revision of district policy on adaptations to secondary education programs and vote on several personnel matters, including teacher assignments and resignations.

In addition to the board meeting at 7:30 p.m., the board also will conduct several work sessions this afternoon. At 3:30 p.m., the board will discuss Alaska Association of School Board resolutions.

At 4 p.m., the board will hold a work session to prepare for the transition from a seven-member board to a nine-member board. The transition is a result of a boroughwide vote last October and will take effect after this year's Oct. 7 elections.

At 4:30 p.m., the board will review revisions to the math and world language curriculum guidelines, and at 5 p.m., members will discuss staffing priorities.

The work sessions and general meeting will be held in the assembly chambers at the Borough Administration Building, 148 N. Binkley St. in Soldotna, and are open to the public.

Work sessions are listen-only, though public comment is taken during the general meeting.

A full meeting agenda is available at the meeting and online at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/schboard/ Default.htm.

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