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District facing $20 million-plus in budget cuts

At Monday night's Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education meeting Superintendent Sean Dusek tried to make clear that proposed cuts in the governor's education budget would be catastrophic to the district. He suggested the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly should take steps toward helping with the problem.

"Think the biggest thing that the borough can do is provide us certainty. And they can make that statement immediately in April with maximum funding. And I think that that really will go a long ways toward our non tenured staff that is currently waiting to see if we can even offer contracts. And it also would send a strong message to the state of Alaska that we truly, fully support public education here," he said.

Dusek said he was going to request full funding from the assembly, something it has not recently provided.

He added that the effects of a $20 million cut to the district need to be made clear.

"We're certainly going to be working with them to provide them what we do and what we're able to accomplish and where we can try to be more efficient," Dusek said. "But I think we're at the point where, you know, there's going to have to be a real out reality check at the state level and with the governor.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones took the opportunity of the finance report to share his thoughts.

"We're going to go a little off script tonight. The January finance report is where it's supposed to be. There's an old saying that goes, 'may you live in extraordinary times.' Well, budget wise, right now we're living in extraordinary times. Unfortunately, they're not good."

Jones hoped to rally citizens to speak up about education funding.

"We need parents and community members and students and teachers and people, everybody in the community that believes we need to have strong schools. We need to talk to our legislators and we need to talk to our assembly members and we need to say to them, these cuts that are proposed are not acceptable and new revenues are acceptable," Jones said. "That's part of the problem with the governor's plan is it's has no new revenue. Well, no new revenue you got to cut $1.6 billion on his plan."

The school board is meeting today at 10 a.m. at Soldotna Prep School to discuss legislative priorities and the budget, and at 2 p.m. the board will be in a joint work session with the borough assembly.

The school district has until April 1 to submit its budget to the borough assembly.

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