School district not planning cuts next year

Feb 21, 2020


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is doing its annual roadshow, rolling out the proposed budget in a series of community meetings around the borough. Budget presentations were held in Kenai and Soldotna this week.

At a meeting Thursday at Soldotna High School, KPBSD Finance Director Liz Hays explained that the district is looking at a $2.26 million deficit next year.

“So, we ended FY19 with unassigned fund balance in the amount of $3.9 million, and so this year we’re not going to make cuts to accommodate the deficit we’re facing because that money will come out of fund balance to balance the budget for FY21,” Hays said.

On the revenue side, the district is estimating $142.5 million. The majority of that comes from the state. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget does not include an increase in the base student allocation for education, nor the continuation of additional funding that was allocated for education in the current fiscal year.

“One-time funding, we have nothing in the budget for FY21, it is not in the governor’s budget and we don’t feel like we’re going to get any one-time funding,” Hays said. “So the difference between the foundation, the loss of the one-time funding is a little over $3 million less revenue we have to start with this year.”

So the state’s contribution is expected to be the same next year. The borough, though, is expected to contribute more.

“The borough has told us they are going to fund us to the cap for FY21, so based on the calculations that we have for the state foundation money, the calculation for the borough comes in at $52,776,000 and that’s at the cap, that’s the max amount that they can give us,” Hays said.

On the expense side, the district expends to spend $144.8 million next year. This includes regular salary increases and increases to salaries and benefits resulting from the latest contract negotiations. It also includes the addition of six full-time equivalent counselors at element schools. Eighty percent of the district’s budget goes to salaries and benefits.

The district has continued to trim expenses over the years.

“Over the past five years we have cut a little over $11 million out of the school district’s budget. And it has been in a lot of different areas — staffing, supplies, curriculum. Last year we consolidated SoHi and SoPrep into one building and we also and raised the (pupil-teacher ratio) at the high school plus five, which reduced 15 certified teachers at the high school level,” Hays said.

The school board decided to use the budget reserve to cover the deficit next year, rather than look at any more cuts. But Dave Jones, assistant superintendent of instructional support, says the district’s fund balance won’t be enough to cover a deficit of this size going forward.  

“This year we’re going to use fund balance but next year, if we don’t have some additional funding at the state level, we’re going to be back to considering cutting programs that we need,” Jones said.

The district has all of its budget information available on its website, And there’s one more community budget meeting scheduled at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Seward High School Library.