Kodiak residents are continuing to turn out to Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meetings to urge the assembly to raise property taxes. The reason, to help the region’s school district with a budget shortfall, which, if not addressed, could have dramatic consequences such as the district possibly eliminating around 14 teaching positions.
Even though there’s been a lot of people saying they support a proposed one mill increase, assembly members seem reluctant to raise taxes.
At the assembly’s recent work session, community members continued to give their input on the situation.
A lot of different ideas and opinions can be heard during citizen comments at any Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting. But it’s pretty rare to hear singing.
Kodiak High School Choir students serenaded the Assembly to show the importance of extracurricular activities in schools. They were a part of a large turnout of borough residents who came to the meeting to support raising property taxes to help the school district with its estimated $1 million shortfalls in its budget for the coming year.
So far the majority of the Assembly has seemed reluctant to raise taxes, but Angie Hiedeloff, who’s a teacher in the district, urged assembly members to reflect on the role a quality education and good teachers can play in the life of a student.
“I want you to think about the struggling student who’s falling farther and farther behind. I want you to think about the seemingly perfect child that is suffering or hiding from childhood trauma. And I want you to think about the teacher who is burnt out and ready to quit. Please fully fund Kodiak Island Borough School District, our future depends on it.”
The majority of the people who addressed the assembly were in favor of it raising the mill rate by about 1 mill. But not everyone wants to see that happen. Judi Kidder says a lot of families in Kodiak won’t be able to afford a cost of living increase.
“It’s been stated that if we don’t fund the school district with this increase then we are going to hurt those poor students. Well, those poor students parents can’t afford that burden.”
Another person to speak against raising taxes was Paddy O’Donnell, who’s a local fisherman. He says Kodiak needs to focus on supporting the seafood industry instead of making it more expensive too in Kodiak.
“What’s going on in the fishing industry is we’re getting beat down slowly but surely. To the point where after 29 years in Kodiak, here, I’m worried. I’m going to be moving. I can’t afford to live here anymore.”
O’Donnell isn’t the only person who says they’re thinking about moving though. Christy Graybert told the assembly how she turned down better-paying jobs so she could teach in Kodiak. But after years of budget cuts and job insecurity, she’s thinking about leaving.
“I considered buying a house last summer, but I’ve decided to hold off because as a new teacher it actually seems this community may not be as supportive of education as I hoped. With the constant threat of budget cuts and the fact that I may not have a job each year I may have to make the choice to move where education is valued.”
The assembly didn’t talk a lot about school funding during its work session, but Assemblywoman Julie Kavanaugh stated she doesn’t believe anyone can say the borough doesn’t want to provide a quality education for Kodiak’s children.
“Education, I think it’s our first priority. I think we are trying our best to give as much money as we can to the schools.”
The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly will hold a public hearing on its budget and the proposed mill rate increase at its regular meeting tonight at 6:30 pm in assembly chambers at the Kodiak Island Borough Building.