The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly at it’s regular meeting Thursday will take public comment on funding for the school district and an increase in the borough’s severance tax, two budget-related proposals that evolved during the past week.
The resolution before the assembly establishing the minimum amount of funding for the Kodiak Island Borough School District won’t equal last year’s funding level, as in the borough manager’s budget proposal. And it won’t set funding at the lowest contribution required by the state, as discussed by the assembly last week.
Rather, after discussions between borough manager Rick Gifford, mayor Jerome Selby and the deputy presiding officer of the assembly, Jerrol Friend, the resolution will peg the minimum funding at $8.5 million, about $4 million more than the least the borough is required to fund, but a $1.8 million cut from last year’s allocation.
The assembly has the power in its budget process to allocate more, but not less, than the funding resolution required to be passed Thursday.
“Whatever (the assembly members) pass in that resolution, by state law, is what we have to support,” Gifford said Tuesday. “And we can give more — up to the cap.”
The $8.5 million allocation to the school district would not require the assembly to raise property taxes or the severance tax to balance the borough budget, giving the assembly flexibility to explore options when it meets May 26 and 27 to take a close look at the budget.
“It’s just a matter of how they do some combination of the tax increases and/or reductions, and the $8.5 million is more than enough to cover it,” Gifford said.
But facing the prospect of a funding cut from the borough, KIBSD superintendent Stewart McDonald said he could not yet lift a hiring freeze put in place after the assembly discussed uncertainties in district funding at its work session last week.
“I’m continuing to ask our administration and staff to be patient,” McDonald said, noting that the resolution may have language in it that says school funding will be re-examined before the borough’s budget is due June 10.
“We know that we have a three-week window before we’re coming back and looking at something that may change,” McDonald said.
The severance tax increase, also up for public hearing, will be scaled back through a substitution ordinance from a proposed 1.5 percent to 1.25 percent, Gifford said. It is now set with the mill rate at 1.05 percent
Some assembly members have expressed their desire to postpone the severance tax increase until after the budget discussion the following week.
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.