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Dunleavy budget veto puts school district funding plans in jeopardy

The Governor's Mansion in Juneau.
Riley Board
The Governor's Mansion in Juneau.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a significant veto of school funding in the state’s budget today. That veto impacts funds that were critical to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, which cut many positions in light of a budget deficit. Now, the district will have to figure out if they can bring those jobs back.

In a press release, Dunleavy announced $87.4 million in one-time funding for schools, 50% less than what the legislature passed in May.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was counting on that funding to fill a $13 million budget deficit. Before the Legislature passed a budget that included the one-time $175 million boost for education, the district approved major cuts within district schools.

The most controversial moves included cuts of pool managers — which would result in the closure of all school pools — and theater techs. The proposed cuts would also leave teachers with larger classes by reducing teaching positions, and ax Student Success Liaisons and athletic directors.

KPBSD representatives couldn’t be reached before airtime. But at a Borough Assembly meeting earlier this month, Superintendent Clayton Holland said the district had reintegrated those cuts and was operating as if the funding boost was guaranteed. He said he was optimistic about getting Dunleavy’s signature.

“I was directed by the board to reinstate all of our cut positions, so we’re moving forward with all of the classified positions that were on the block: the theater techs, the swimming managers and the student success liaisons, those are coming back, which means our pools will be open," Holland said. "But we are taking a chance by doing this. That’s the thing, it’s a little bit scary. If it does get vetoed, we’re gonna be in a bad spot.”

He said at that meeting the plan was risky, but that the district was at the point where it would need to reintegrate the positions, or start laying people off.

Dunleavy announced the cuts today in a press release, but did not take questions from reporters, or provide details on the reason for the veto. A spokesperson told Alaska Public Media that he was unavailable for an interview.

Other budget vetoes affecting the Kenai Peninsula include $150 thousand for the Nikiski Senior Center, $600 thousand for a Wildwood Drive reconstruction project, and $670 thousand for the solid waste transfer site in Hope.

To override a veto, lawmakers would need a three-quarters vote in both the House and the Senate. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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