School district starts doing the math

Oct 17, 2017

Though this school year is only a couple of months old, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is getting a jump on planning next year’s budget, and wants the community to help.

The district is holding community budget meetings at 22 schools at 5:30 p.m. tonight. Superintendent Sean Dusek will give an overview of the budget via teleconference, then each site will go into more detail about that school’s budget.

“At each site, they’ll be conducting a conversation, they’ll be watching one or two videos depending on what the need of the community is and then having a time for questions and responses and conversations for the rest of that hour, individually and tailored to each of the sites,” said KPBSD Communications Specialist Pegge Erkeneff.

The budget in development will be for the school year starting in August 2018.

“It’s putting a huge project into motion to put together a multimillion-dollar budget. At this point we don’t know what our revenue will be from the state. It does look a little different than it did last year when we were told to expect 5 to 10 percent cuts,” Erkeneff said. “So we’ll be putting the budget together based on looking at what the needs are in the community.”

State funding isn’t the only unknown factor that will affect next year’s budget. Contract negotiations between the district and teacher and support staff unions begin in just a few months, in early 2018. And the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly won’t decide what level of funding it will provide the school district until late spring.

Even if the Legislature doesn’t change the funding formula for next year, the amount of per-pupil funding the district receives looks like it will decrease, since the number of students seems to be declining.

“One thing that we get questioned a lot about is that, if enrollment is down, how come we can’t just cut teachers? With a district staffed as ours is, it’s not like you have 30 kids that didn’t show up at one specific school. It might be 30 or 50 that are spread through the entire district,” Erkeneff said. “So it’s not easy to just reduce a staff position when the students that we think are coming don’t show up.”

Erkeneff said anyone who misses the budget meeting Tuesday can — and should — still participate in the process.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” she said. “It’s (a) many months process. But this is the start of it and this is a really important one for parents and community members and anyone interested in our schools to show up and come to, and it’s an opportunity to learn, too, about, ‘How do you create a multimillion-dollar budget and what do you value?’

Supt. Dusek’s budget presentation and more information on the budget process and ways to get involved will be available on the district’s website.