Nenana school district seeks help with payment

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Faced with a drop in funding from the state the Nenana City School District has asked the city to make the next two payments on the district's high school boarding home.

''Our student count has come in approximately 500 students lower than was predicted for the statewide correspondence program,'' Super-intendent Ken Eggleston told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. That's about a third of the Cyberlynx correspondence program's enrollment.

Eggleston said that means a drop in revenue of about $915,000 -- more than 10 percent of the $7 million budget the district started the year with.

The twice-yearly payments on the Nenana Student Living Center, which opened last school year, are $141,400 each.

Nenana Mayor Jason Mayrand said the city's $600,000 operating budget could not support the payments.

''That's almost $600 for every man, woman and child in town.'' Mayrand said.

Mayrand said the city will try to come up with the funds.

''We will work this out,'' Mayrand said. ''One way or the other we will work this out. It is too important a project to let go.''

The city is technically on the hook for repayment of the 30-year $4.5 million loan that paid for construction of the center, which the city owns. However, Mayrand said the school district agreed to make the payments from its operating budget.

''At the time what we were told from the school district administration and what the school board was being told was that it wasn't going to be an issue,'' he said.

Even Eggleston, who was not superintendent during construction of the building, said this year's shortfall was unexpected.

Eggleston attributed much of the drop to an increase in local and statewide correspondence programs. The Yukon-Koyukuk School District started a statewide correspondence program this year, he said. Nenana lost about 300 students to that program, Eggleston said.

In addition, he said, the Galena correspondence program allowed more students to enroll and several local school districts improved their in-district correspondence programs.

''There are only a certain number of students out there,'' Eggleston said. ''Competition is getting really stiff, and it is becoming a shoppers market.''

The enrollment is secondary to the real challenge the center faces, he said. The district operates the center with only the regular state per-student funding and receives nothing extra to feed and house the students.

''The basic issue is how do you maintain the living center without any support from the state,'' he said. ''To maintain the program we are going to need some kind of assistance from the Legislature.''

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