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Budget survey helps gauge community priorities

Tough choices for district

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2006

What’s more important, music or career and technical education? Should the school district invest in more technology, or hire more teachers? Should a school be closed if it leads to more opportunities for students?

Those are a few of the questions the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is looking for answers to as the budget process for the next school year gets under way.

“They’re exactly the same questions we had last year. We found those questions to provide us with useful information that was useful in development of the budget. I think they’re still timely,” said Donna Peterson, the district superintendent.

The budget survey is posted on the district’s Web site, www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us, and hard copies are available at the school district reception desk in the borough building in Soldotna. Surveys also can be obtained by contacting Lassie Nelson at 714-8838, or by e-mail at lassie@kpbsd. k12.ak.us. Surveys need to be returned by 5 p.m. Jan. 12.

Peterson said between 200 and 300 people responded to the survey last year, and results were tabulated and presented to the school board during a budget work session.

Peterson said the questions on the budget survey reflect the difficult issues the administration and school board grapple with every year while working through the budget process. Peterson said a steady decline in enrollment and inadequate funding from the state have contributed to tighter and tighter budgets.

“We want to make sure the public has an opportunity to look at all aspects of the budget, but to understand that in order to balance the budget, there has to be priorities set and hard decisions made,” Peterson said.

Peterson said surveying the public gives the administration and school board an idea of where the community’s priorities lie, but it’s not always a clear idea.

“Last year, not surprisingly, the answers were split. It would be awesome if the answers came back clean, and if the answers came back one way, but they are reflective of a community with different priorities,” Peterson said.

The budget process will continue with a joint work session with the borough assembly Jan. 16, and presentations in Kenai, Homer and Soldotna, also in January. Peterson said the public has the opportunity to comment on the budget at every school board meeting between now and the time the budget is adopted, and the school board will schedule several work sessions to crunch numbers.

Though the questions are tough ones, Peterson said good things have come out of public participation in the process.

“The more people understand the budget, the more good ideas that are presented,” she said.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.



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