The Kodiak Island Borough School District’s Board of Education met for a work session last night and heard about a handful of budget scenarios the district might be looking at for FY 2015.
Basically, the school district doesn’t know how much money will be coming its way from either the state or the borough, so Superintendent Stewart McDonald said any budget before the board is tentative, and subject to a lot more decisions that will be made in the months and weeks to come.
McDonald presented a proposed budget during the work session – one that he said was a “worst-case scenario.” At most, McDonald said the district could have a $1.69 million deficit for next year, and he proposed cutting a total of 24 positions, ranging from custodians and safety officers to the Kodiak High School athletic director. He said those proposed cuts are far from inevitable, and many will actually be done through attrition, meaning the district won’t hire a new employee to fill the role of a retiring one.
“Two to three weeks should make a huge difference in what we’re talking about. The books that you will have I believe should just go ahead and represent worst case scenario because you’ve got to prepare for it. And then we’ll make adjustments from there. What I’d like to do is just start with this as the initial proposed prioritized list and where the cuts would come from.”
McDonald said the hope is that state funding won’t be a worst-case scenario this year. Ideally, as the budget picture becomes clearer, and hopefully more positive, the 24 cuts proposed last night will decrease accordingly. McDonald said the number is already down from 29 cuts that were associated with budget projections in January.
During the public comment period, Alexus Kwachka said he was concerned about the district’s use of attrition to solve its budget problems.
“I think that you guys need to be really sensitive to what’s going on, we’re losing a ton of really good people. And yes, there’s always going to be an attrition rate, but what’s going on is alarming to me because our students deserve the best that we can get. And I am really, really concerned about Bryan going away and I’ll speak to that directly. Bryan is a dynamite guy, he’s doing a dynamite job and I’m really concerned about where this goes.”
Kwachka was referencing Bryan Ferris, the current athletic director at Kodiak High School. Changes to the athletic director role have captured many community members’ attention, especially with news that Ferris’ job might be in jeopardy.
As per last night’s proposed budget, the Kodiak High School athletic director position might become a part time role, one that is split as a physical education teacher. Much of the director duties would then get picked up by administrative staff throughout the district.
The proposed budget also includes the hiring of an additional administrator at the high school that would replace two safety officers hired this year to help monitor the building during construction. McDonald said that would bring the high school up to three administrators, which it used to have, but currently only has two.
Eric Linscheid also spoke during the public comment period and asked what the emotional cost these changes might have on our community.
“If you have not gone out into the community and you’re not talking to people. Get connected. Get connected. I don’t know one person in favor of this transition. Not one.”
He encouraged the district to be more responsive to community questions and concerns.
McDonald emphasized that last night’s budget was only a stepping stone in the process to producing a final budget, and even then the board of education would have the final say on whether or not to approve it.