Formula spells trouble ahead for peninsula schools

Posted: Sunday, November 13, 2005

Despite rosy figures coming out of the Department of Revenue in Juneau, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is not in the best shape it’s ever been.

Budget shortfalls in the coming year could reach into the millions of dollars. And unfortunately, the entity likely to bear the brunt of this hardship could be the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

The district recently announced that the possibility exists that two public schools — in Hope and Cooper Landing — could be closed due to declining enrollments boroughwide. Last week the district’s finance director cautioned that the closures could be a real possibility.

Coming on the heels of a school closure in Nikiski, this is not good news for the peninsula.

Unfortunately, it’s news that was bound to come along sooner or later.

Hamstrung by an outdated and unfair state funding formula, the district’s budget has been stretched extremely thin for several years. Coupled with declining enrollment and an overall funding situation that looks more bleak each year, the district may finally be facing the crisis situation administrators have been warning us about for the past several years.

The most immediate way to alleviate this situation would be for the Legislature to create a funding formula that treats the far-flung borough — which consists of schools off the road system, schools where English is not the primary language and schools located across Cook Inlet — less like an urban district.

This has not happened because of political infighting in Juneau, more specifically, Anchorage-based politicians unwilling to recognize that our borough is unique and deserving of a bigger chunk of the state spending pie.

All we, as citizens of the borough, can ask is that our local legislators make the fight for funding their number one priority in the coming legislative session. Hopefully, this time around, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will finally get its due.

If not, be prepared for the very real chance that school closures and budget cuts will become a reality on the Kenai Peninsula and throughout the borough.

Light up the town

Kudos to the cities of Kenai and Soldotna for their work in preparing for the annual holiday celebrations with their traditional decorations.

Now that winter has settled in for the long haul, their efforts will again this year provide area residents with a bit of much-needed brightness during our annual dark season.

Twin Cities residents can help add to this festive look by getting holiday lights up early this year. There’s no doubt that a brighter city is a more pleasant and enjoyable place to live and work during the wintertime, and studies have shown that more light means a more energetic and upbeat populace.

So get out those stringers, sparklers and ladders, and get decorating. If everyone pitches in again this year, there’s no doubt that the central peninsula can be a bright and cheerful place to spend the winter — even if the sun has packed up and headed south.

Light it up!

25 and counting ...

It’s hard to believe the Kenai Recreation Center celebrated its 25th anniversary this week. What a great example of how an investment in the community is so worthwhile.

So many people had a hand in making the center a reality, and so many have continued to make it a place that has made a difference to the young and old with the variety of events that have taken place under its roof.

It’s become a haven, a place to learn and a place to keep your mind and body fit.

We thank those who have made such an impact in our community. Here’s to the next 25 — and beyond.

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