The funding wishes of the Kodiak Island Borough School District were granted last night. The borough assembly voted 5-2 in favor of funding the district’s $10.6 million request, which is the state allowed maximum. In recent years the assembly has only funded about 96 percent of that, but low state and federal contributions forced the district to ask for full funding.
The close vote boiled down to some assembly members’ disappointment in the district’s lack of communication about additional funds. On the last day of the legislative session a bill was passed that allocated $21 million to districts around the state. Kodiak’s piece of the pie is about $450,000, and it was determined that those funds could be put toward energy saving costs and free up other dollars in the district’s $48.7 million budget. A few assembly members, one being Assemblywoman Carol Austerman, wanted to know where those free dollars would go.
-- (Borough Meeting 1 :35 “And part of our reason for
the interest is because it is a very close amount to the difference of
this $399,000 that is between flat funding the school district this year
and funding to the cap, from the assembly. So it was of concern to us
because we wanted to understand how, especially if they got both sets
of funding, what that was going to do. And my main question, and I
believe a couple other assembly members at the work session, was is it
going to put teachers back in the classroom that weren’t there
Austerman said she walked into the meeting in favor
of full funding, but the lack of communication from the district left
her unsure how to vote. The answer to her question about the extra
funding wasn’t provided before last night’s meeting, nor was it given
during community comments or the public hearing on the matter.
Only during assembly discussion, when Assemblyman Aaron Griffin called
Superintendent Stewart McDonald to the podium, was it clear where the
funds would go. McDonald said $75,000 of the $450,000 will go toward
school security improvements, with the rest going to energy costs. He
said that will free up funds for other areas of the budget, like
$165,000 now going toward curriculum materials.
Meeting 2 :22 “The remaining $206,000 goes into salary
contingencies, specifically to address things like as student enrollment
comes in in august, to keep our pupil/teacher ratios intact. To be able
to have that money to place teachers where we need them as student
enrollment comes in in August.”)
Assemblywoman Louise Stutes said she would be voting against the amended funding amount.
(Borough Meeting 3 :32 “I just don’t believe in spending every
last dime you have. But more importantly, I have to agree with Mrs.
Austerman. The school budget is the number one item on the plate of the
school district at this time. And for them to be so inattentive so as to
not respond to the assembly’s questions, when they’re here asking us to
fund them to the cap, that should be their number one priority, and it
simply was not for some reason. And I will not be supporting this
motion, I just can’t.”)
Assemblyman Aaron Griffin made the motion
to amend the funding amount to the cap. He said he fully supports that
dollar amount, regardless of intergovernmental communication.
(Borough Meeting 4 :18 “It’s the right thing to do when we have
the money. A large portion of this is coming from taxes that we’ve
already collected specifically earmarked for the school district anyway.
And we are forwarding that to them. To me it makes sense to continue to
uphold the quality of the education system here in Kodiak.”)
vote on the amendment to increase the district’s funding passed 4-to-3,
with Austerman, Stephens and Stutes voting against it. The final
measure cleared the assembly 5-to-2, with just Stephens and Stutes