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School district to bring back cut staff positions

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education, following Matt Fischer's public hearing.
Riley Board
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education, following Matt Fischer's public hearing.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is adding back staff positions to its budget for the upcoming fiscal year after being directed to do so by the school board Monday.

The positions, including pool managers and theater technicians, were cut from the budget earlier this year as the district worked to resolve a $16 million budget shortfall. It also cut funding for extracurricular activities and equipment upgrades, and increased the student to teacher ratio in some classrooms.

While crafting the budget, the district didn’t know how much money it would receive from the state. That amount was thrown into limbo after Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a comprehensive education package early in the session that would have increased the base amount of money school districts get per student.

The school district still doesn’t know exactly how much money it’s getting. But board members and Superintendent Clayton Holland said they’re confident they’ll get something. That’s why they’re ready to move forward with one budget scenario that retains non-personnel cuts.

“We're going to wait until we have a more definitive answer from the governor of what's happening, whether that budget will be approved or cuts, and save some room to pivot if we need to,” Holland said. “But I want the audience to know that we are moving forward with all the human aspects of things that were being cut for next year.”

The version of the state operating budget passed by lawmakers, but not yet signed by Dunleavy, includes extra, one-time funding that amounts to a $680 BSA increase. That would bring in about $11.4 million to the district.

Susanna Litwiniak is president of the union that represents the school district’s non-certified employees, like custodians and secretaries.

Speaking to school board members Monday, she said she wanted to remind them about the difficult position staff are put in when they don’t know whether they’ll have a job next school year.

“The thinking is that we will receive funding, and everybody will get their personnel action forms,” Litwiniak said. “But that's not a definitive. So I just wanted everybody here to be aware that that can be really stressful for classified staff. And that half of your staff were sent away at the end of the school year with that scenario to think about.”

Litwiniak, who also works as a secretary at Moose Pass School, is a non-certified district employee. As of Monday evening, she said she doesn’t yet have a job offer for the upcoming school year.

School Board President Zen Kelly said moving forward with the selected budget scenario is a way to address those concerns. Even if the district doesn’t know exactly how much state money it’s getting, it gives some staff a sense of certainty.

“This allows us to commit to people and basically say, ‘OK, we're going to post these positions and try to get them filled,’” Kelly said.

If Dunleavy vetoes some or all of the bonus money approved by lawmakers, Kelly said the district will revisit its plan.

Prior to joining KDLL's news team in May 2024, O'Hara spent nearly four years reporting for the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai. Before that, she was a freelance reporter for The New York Times, a statehouse reporter for the Columbia Missourian and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach her at
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