The Kodiak Island Borough School District is facing its most severe budget cuts in over a decade. The district is looking for solutions to a $3.5 million deficit for next year. About $2.5 million of that can be covered if the state Legislature passes a proposed spending bill. Without the money, Superintendent Stewart McDonald says cuts are inevitable.
— (Budget 1 :21 "We need an additional $2.5 million from the state and $1 million from the borough or we cannot fund all of our programs and maintain our current class sizes. We face the loss of a certain percent of administrators, classified support staff and teachers. Without this money we will have fewer programs and larger class sizes.")
The school board held two meetings that lasted for nearly three hours on Monday night to discuss their 2013 game plan. The $3.5 million deficit is a huge blow to the district. Other districts across the state are also getting pinched.
McDonald says without the additional state money, the district would consider not only cutting programs but the possibility of closing Main Elementary School.
— (Budget 2 :55 "If we have to face these cuts we need to think differently and we need to be willing to use our staff- kindergarten through 12th grade- differently. We need to be willing to look at aligning schedules at the middle school and high school and sharing staff between these two buildings so as we face cuts in staff we can make sure our class sizes are balanced and programs are still possible as we share staff and expertise between the two buildings. We will need to look at similar issues at our elementary schools. We have 44 classrooms at the elementary schools right now. It is possible to put all 44 of those classes into three buildings instead of four. If we were to explore such things we would find cost savings.")
Those cost savings would come in the way of staff reductions.
The cost of education, like most things, increases each year. A bill currently in the senate would increase the Base Student Allocation– the amount the state pays local districts per student– each year for the next three years. However, Governor Sean Parnell has said that he’d prefer districts to justify their need for additional funding each year, as opposed to the planned increases. McDonald says that regardless of whether the money comes through or not, schools have to own up to what’s best for students.
— (Budget 3 :31 "We have to make adjustments and restructure and face these budget cuts. Our primary goal is to preserve the program, the benefits and the opportunities for our students. When this is done we can’t worry about what kingdoms we are disrupting within our system. We have to make the student the priority and any changes that we make will be made to make sure that kids still have those services that they need to be successful."
The school board and school administration will continue to look at ways to make their budget work. The board must approve it by April 30th and then have it finalized by the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly. The district is also currently in negotiations over teachers’ contracts. Those negotiations must be finalized by March 15th.