School District Faces $3.4 Million-Dollar Shortfall for 2015

Ariel Van Cleave

     Kenai Peninsula Borough School District officials are getting to work crafting next year’s spending plan. The school board is met Tuesday morning to start the process. The preliminary budget totals about $160 million.

     District officials aren’t expecting an increase in the Base Student Allocation again for next year. That’s the funding from the state that’s based on student population and the amount hasn’t increased in four years. Instead the state offers up one-time infusions of cash. Last year that came in the form of “safety money,” which totaled about $1.4 million. 

     The district used the money to improve security at a few of the schools throughout the peninsula. One-time funding also is expected for next year, the governor’s preliminary budget has about $1.7 million included as a line item. 

     School officials are not anticipating an increase from the Kenai Peninsula Borough either. Last year’s funding level was around $43.5 million. The district could still ask for another $2.5 million, which would max out that funding source. But that will be decided as the budget process continues. 

     Certified salaries and benefits take up the majority of general fund spending in the tentative budget. Next year’s plan includes a 2 percent salary bump, and an increase in the district’s share of health care costs. It goes from 83 percent to 85 percent. Those increases were part of the new contracts that were signed last year. Also, in general, the costs of health care have gone up about 6 percent.  

     Another big increase for the district is with the teacher and public employee retirement systems. The Alaska Retirement Management board approved increases to the TRS and PERS employer contribution rates. According to budget documents, it’s about a 46 percent increase over last year’s contributions. 

     The district only expects revenues to be in the neighborhood of $154 million and will use about $2 million from its health care reserve funds to cover some costs. According to the preliminary spending plan, the district has a shortfall of $3.4 million for next year.