School district unsure of financial impact of COVID-19

Apr 7, 2020


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is as up in the air as everyone else about what the coronavirus pandemic will mean, financially.

The district’s Board of Education met Monday via teleconference. Acting Superintendent Dave Jones outlined several factors that will impact the district — one good, most bad.

The district has no mechanism to raise its own money, so is at the mercy of the borough, state and federal governments for revenue. Borough administration had committed to funding the district next year to the full amount allowed under state statute. But, given the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, Jones said that Mayor Charlie Pierce has warned that might not happen.

“He’s very concerned about the economic effect that’s happening in our borough, especially what is going to happen with our sales tax and with the possible delinquent taxes that could not get paid. Has a concern that they may not be able to support to the amount that they had originally committed to,” Jones said.

The borough and school district have been working on a $30 million bond package to put to voters in the fall to catch up on a laundry list of deferred-maintenance projects at schools. Jones said Pierce told him he’s concerned about the viability of that bond if it’s put to voters this year. That’s going to especially be a problem for building a new school in Kachemak Selo. The state Legislature designated $10 million for that project years ago but the funding has a 2021 expiration date for the borough to come up with its required contribution of $5.4 million.

Jones said the district can’t hope for any help on repairs from the state going forward.

“The Legislature and the governor has signed House Bill 106, which was a bill that extended a moratorium on the state matching any bond funds for another five years. So it’s going to mean that for 10 years there will be no matching funds that have historically occurred in Alaska for school districts to build and fix their buildings,” he said.

The state budget passed by the Legislature on March 29 included $30 million in one-time funding for education but that was vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday.

On the federal level, the coronavirus stimulus CARES Act includes $13.5 billion in education stabilization money for the elementary and secondary levels. The majority of that is supposed to go to districts, with some going to states. No one yet knows how much that will mean for KPBSD or when that money might arrive. Jones said the district is contemplating how it might be best spent.

“We’ve started to look and say, ‘OK, how are we going to spend that money and what are we going to do on that?’ And, depending on when we can gather again, if it’s possible, we’re probably going to try and look at doing some summer school reading or math programs. And if we aren’t back together by then we’ll probably be doing some after-school remediation programs for our students in the fall. We’ll also be looking at some equipment purchases and those things to be able to improve our distance-learning abilities in case we do have continue in the fall,” Jones said.

Jones asked the school board to plan for a work session in May to discuss implications for the bond package.