Borough Mayor Pierce vetoes $2.4 million of supplemental education funding

May 6, 2019

Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce vetoed roughly $2.4 million worth of supplemental education funding on Monday. The additional dollars would have brought the borough’s contribution to the district for the 2019 fiscal year up to the maximum allowed under state law.

Supporters say the move would provide certainty for the district as it hires teachers and the state budget for next fiscal year continues to take shape in Juneau.

The assembly could override Pierce’s veto, but in order for that to be successful, at least one of the four assembly members who initially voted against the measure last month will have to change their mind.

“Since the public seemed overwhelmingly in favor of full funding of the schools for this year, I’m hopeful perhaps one of those four members might change their mind and vote with us to override the veto,” Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Willy Dunne said.

Mayor Pierce declined an on-tape interview, but pointed to a statement on social media saying in part that his proposed budget for next fiscal year calls for education funding near the cap. Pierce has also argued that providing more funding support within the current fiscal year could limit the borough’s response to the final 2020 state budget, which dictates how much local municipalities can contribute to their district.

Assembly member Paul Fischer agrees with that sentiment and said he will be voting to uphold Pierce’s veto.

“It’s not that there’s anything evil about it, but the district always has said when you ask, ‘how much money do you need?’ They always say, ‘as much as we can get,’” Fischer said, “and that’s not the great answer for the general public.”

Others argue that the borough should provide funding now in case lawmakers reduce education funding for next year and subsequently the borough’s ability to contribute to the district.

It’s unclear whether the assembly will attempt to override Mayor Pierce’s veto at its meeting Tuesday Members have until May 21 to decide whether to attempt an override.