After teachers and staff asked the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly to fund the school district to the cap and school board president Norm Wooten made a presentation on the additional costs the school district will need to absorb, the assembly is considering a resolution to allow the minimum funding required by the state.
The resolution, which establishes the least the borough would contribute to the school district, allocates about $6 million less than in the district’s proposed budget.
While the assembly isn’t considering that drastic of a cut for the final version of the borough budget, it gives the assembly full room to make cuts to the school district budget.
The assembly plans a vote on the resolution at its regular meeting May 19. A state rule requires the borough to pass a resolution for a minimum funding level by the end of May.
The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly also had a budget presentation at its work session Thursday and continued to discuss ways to fill a $1.7 million budget gap just to keep services at the same level. The discussion ranged from the proposed increase to the severance tax to increasing property taxes and cutting services.
The assembly elected to dedicate two additional work sessions to wrangling with the budget in late May and may delay an increase in the severance tax slated for next week until those discussions have taken place.
Uncertainty in the borough budget is creating more uncertainty for the school district. Kodiak Island School District superintendent Stewart McDonald said he will need to institute a hiring freeze “based on the certainty of not knowing what is next.”
A search of the state of Alaska job search site shows the district is in the process of hiring for several positions, from a supervisor of technology to maintenance staff and a new varsity volleyball coach.
If the resolution passes, McDonald said he would need to take steps to meet the legal requirements of having a balanced budget. That would mean more staff time to work up an entirely new budget with deep personnel or program cuts.
“I have to respond to their legal step of only agreeing to currently fund us to the minimum, and until they put in writing a greater number, I have to balance the budget based on their current number,” McDonald said.
The final budget of the borough may not come until a special meeting called for June 9.
“That puts us in limbo until long after the staff are gone,” McDonald said. “So we will have staff leaving us not really knowing what their buildings are going to look like next year.
“If they flat fund us, that’s one thing we’ll have to prepare for. If they cut us below that flat funding, that will translate into some kind of cut we will have to make up some way.”
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.