The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is eying a $1.3 million to $2 million budget deficit next school year. Much of that will be covered by the district’s reserve account. But the rest, depending on how state and borough funding shake out, could mean cuts in the classroom.
Dave Jones, assistant superintendent of Instructional Support, presented the fiscal year 2019 draft budget to the Board of Education at its meeting Monday night. On the revenue side, the district is counting on the same level of funding from the state.
“That’s what we’ve been hearing,” Jones said. “There’s been a bill introduced to increase that funding. The likelihood of that bill passing and increased funding at the state level at this point in time, at least, seems to not have a good chance of happening.”
The district also receives funding from the borough. In Alaska, municipalities are required to provide a minimum amount of funding to their school district and are allowed by law to provide an additional amount up to a cap. For the last two years, the borough has provided less the full amount allowed, though this year the district got a little more local support than the previous year.
For the fiscal year 2019 budget, the district is asking the borough for full funding to the cap.
“The question if the borough is going to do that, I think, is a very legitimate question,” Jones said. “I think everybody knows we have a new mayor and they’re working on their budget, as well, now, with a large deficit, as well. And, so, we’ll see where we end up on that.”
The district hopes to maintain the same level of staffing and pupil-teacher ratios as it has this year. If the borough funds to the cap and state revenue stays the same, that will leave the district with a deficit of about $1.3 million, Jones said. The school board is willing to pull up to $1.3 million from the district’s reserve account to balance the budget.
If the borough continues the same level of funding as this year, the district estimates a deficit of around $2 million next year. Jones says that will mean cuts. The district has already reduced its budget by $7.9 million over the last four years, and Jones says there aren’t many options left to cut without impacting the classroom.
A little more can come out of nonpersonnel areas — travel, supplies and the like. And there are a couple of administrative positions retiring or resigning this year that won’t be filled next year. But beyond that, Jones says cuts will impact students.
“The largest portion of what we’re going to have to do will come with PTR (pupil-teacher ratio) reductions in our school buildings, starting at the high school and moving our way down toward the elementaries,” Jones said. “The biggest chunk you’ll see is at the high schools — there’s reasons for that. Anyway, we’ve looked at $1,150,000 coming from PTR reductions — 11.5 FTE (full-time equivalent positions). And, so, that’s what we’ll be looking at.”
The district’s proposed budget and other financial information are available on its website.