With a relatively light agenda, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly took time Tuesday night to hear updates from the Borough School District and Southern Peninsula Hospital. But the big news was delivered by the Mayor.
After addressing the Borough’s Task Force on anadromous fish habitat protection Monday about the role of Facilitator Paul Ostrander, Mayor Mike Navarre had another announcement for the full Assembly.
“Implementation of KPB Ordinance 2011-12…has been delayed until August of next year. That is recognizing that there’s a task force that is expected to finish their work some time in April and have a report available in order to give the Assembly time to consider those (amendments to the ordinance),” Navarre told the Assembly.
That ordinance of course expands the scope of the protections from rivers to streams and many lakes as well. It had been set to go into effect January first of next year, but the Task Force charged with amending the ordinance to address concerns from property owners, still has some work to do.
With the fish business out of the way for the evening, the Assembly heard Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater’s quarterly report for the district, which he broke down into four positive developments, and the challenges facing the district.
“Each of the last ten years, our enrollment has been projected to go down and this year we are projecting our enrollment to go up by about nine students,” Atwater said.
“We’re really optimistic that we’ve bottomed out and we can begin to climb again. We’re having more little guys come through and it’s good to see that the number of seniors going out the door is about exactly what we see for the number of kindergarteners that came in the door,” he sad.
He said other positive developments were in instruction throughout the district and also a reduction in the number of students taking free and reduced lunch options. A final area receiving positive attention was in academic performance, which Atwater says still stands above the state average in the areas of reading, math, science and writing.
The problems Dr. Atwater talked about the District facing are largely financial. From worries about base student allocation funding from the state to health care costs, which are at the center of ongoing contract negotiations between the District and its teacher’s union.
“With regard to health care…we are self insured, as you know, and last year it was $21 million. That’s a lot of money going out the door that comes in the door for education and now it’s going right back out the door for health care,” Atwater said.
“It’s a realistic expense, everybody in America is experiencing it, we’re not unusual, but it is very real for us and so far this year through four months, we’re at $6.7 million,” he said.
On the budget front, Dr. Atwater said they’ve constructed a budget for 2014 based on the District’s offer to the Teacher’s Union, but several variables could affect that.
“What we’re doing at this point is putting in no increase from the Borough, no increase from the state and just see what that gap will be. Once we establish how much that gap will be we’ll be able to have an informed decision-making on what to do next,” Atwater said.
Public meetings on the District’s budget are planned for February in Seward, Homer and Soldotna.