School District Seeks Community Input On Budget

     The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is starting its budget process for next school year. District officials are looking for community members to lend a hand in deciding how the money will be used.

     School officials are looking for 10 to 15 people to be part of the KPBSD Budget Review Committee. 

     “It gathers once a year and it will meet all day long,” KPBSD Spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said. “The purpose is to take a look at what our budget is for the upcoming year, for the 2014-2015 school year. And as it goes through the process there will be a presentation of where the district is at… and then we’re inviting feedback.”

     Erkeneff said much of the conversation will focus on the general fund budget, which is by far the largest pot of money. That’s the portion that pays teacher salaries and benefits. It’s also the portion of the budget that needs to be reduced by $1.24 million for next school year. Erkeneff said the district is hoping to streamline costs without sacrificing what happens in the classroom. 

     “So here’s our current reality and what suggestions and ideas do you have? We’ll be asking that to the people who are on this budget review committee,” she said.

     She also points out this review committee will be a way for the district to educate people about how education funding works. 

     “Public education funding is interesting for people to really learn. We have no way to generate our own money for the school district. So we rely on our state funding and the borough funding and some federal funding. So they’ll get an informative understanding of how a school district budget works… you’re learning where funding comes from, you’re learning what we’ve done in the past, we’re learning trends that are coming in the future,” she said.

     But don’t worry; Erkeneff said a degree in finance isn’t mandatory. 

     “It’s somebody with a mind that’s open to inquiry and to learning, and that’s open to perhaps even thinking outside the box,” she said.

     The 10 to 15 people from the community won’t be the only ones in the room for this discussion. Erkneff said district officials, school board members, some Borough Assembly members as well as student and union representatives will be on hand to hammer out budget priorities. 

     The school district might also have a better idea of the number of students in each of the schools by that point. The district just finished its 20-day count for the State Department of Education and Early Development. 

     “The preliminary information that we got… from our 20-day count… it’s looking like we’re slightly under,” she said.

     Erkeneff said that report isn’t concrete yet. But if the numbers stay slightly down that will affect state funding for the district.

     If you’d like to apply for this committee, the short application is available on the KPBSD website. All you need is your name, address, phone number and email. The submission deadline is 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. The committee will meet the following Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Borough Assembly Chambers.