The Kodiak Island Borough School District is asking for about $1 million in increased funding from the Kodiak Island Borough to counteract a shortfall in its budget for next year. Borough staff is proposing a one mill increase to provide this funding, but a majority of the borough assembly seems to be against raising property taxes.
At the assembly’s recent regular meeting teachers, parents, and borough residents turned out to support raising taxes to help the region’s schools, but many assembly members seemed unswayed.
Education needs to be a priority for the Kodiak Island Borough. That was the overall sentiment of those who addressed the borough assembly at its recent regular meeting.
“If you show me your budget, I can show you what’s important to you and if it’s not education then I don’t know if this is a place that I want to be and I want to raise my family.”
“When we look to save money, we should not save money on the backs of the school district.”
“If more cuts are made I’m afraid the population that will bear the burden is the children most of all.”
“I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. I have a home and I am willing to have my taxes increased if it’s going to continue to help support the school and the children coming through the system now.”
One of the most emotional testimonies came from Lisa Cavan, who’s a teacher in the district. She says it’s incredibly stressful teaching right now and she doesn’t know how further cuts will affect students.
“I’ve been in education for 19 years. I’ve never felt this disheartened and scared. Not only for myself, my family, the kids, but just to see where this community is going to go.”
Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner is against raising property taxes by one mill because she says Kodiak can’t afford it. The region’s main industry, fishing, is facing cuts in quotas, declining prices, and decreasing fish stocks. Skinner says if Kodiak isn’t in an economic disaster right now — it’s about to be.
She’s also worried the school district will continue to see a decline in students, which it has over the last few years, and that means less money from the state coming into Kodiak for education.
Skinner: “The reason I’m afraid enrollment is going to go down is because all of the other numbers I went over is that we have declining economy and the costs to be in Kodiak are going up and we’ve already heard throughout the last, probably, year and a half that families are leaving Kodiak and it’s not going to get any easier to stay here.”
Schroeder: “To actually decrease our services inside the school district is only going to accelerate that decline that’s going [to] impact most the people who need it.”
Being in favor of raising the mill rate or increasing the school districts funding by about $1 million wasn’t a popular stance on the assembly. But Assemblyman Andy Schroeder wants to support the school through these hard times.
The district recently reduced the amount it was asking for from the borough. Originally it requested an amount closer to $1.5 million dollars to make up its current budget shortfall for the coming year. But because of an unexpected increase in federal impact aid, it was able to reduce its request by around $500,000.
Even with that reduction though, Assemblywoman Julie Kavanaugh doesn’t think Kodiak can take any more taxes. She says the stress it would put on fishing families and the community as a whole would be too much.
“I hate doom and gloom, but I don’t think we can pile on more expense at this time.”
Two assembly members were absent from the assembly’s regular meeting, Assemblyman Matthew Van Daele, and Assemblyman Kyle Crow. The assembly voted to postpone moving the budget forward and scheduled an extra public hearing on it at its next regular meeting.