Future funding for education dominated the first 30 minutes at the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1. Although there has not been an official draft budget released yet by the Kodiak Island Borough School District, residents are already calling on the Assembly to provide more money to local schools in the upcoming fiscal year.
“As I stated I am a senior at Kodiak High School and I am set to graduate in May. The truth is, that would not be the case if not for football,” Phil Ferris explained.
Ferris was one of several Kodiak High School students who spoke out in favor of saving their sports programs from potential budget cuts on Thursday night. Parents, students and teachers all came to the podium during the public comments portion of the assembly meeting to speak in support of education funding.
The school district is currently working on its draft budget for FY’25, with plans to make several million dollars’ worth of cuts. Superintendent Cyndy Mika told KMXT earlier in the year that everything is up in the air right now in terms of what programs or positions will be funded or cut.
The Borough Assembly is not required to fund all of KIBSD’s budget, in fact there is a maximum limit the municipal government can contribute. But some residents have called for the municipality to increase funding to close the school district’s budget shortfall. Last year the Borough Assembly gave $12.2 million to the school district, which was less than what the district requested but more than the Borough had given in prior years.
This year’s request comes as state funds for local schools have also remained flat. That includes Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which has no increases to the base student allocation (BSA).
Teacher and Kodiak High School alum Ben Jackson has been teaching on the island for more than two decades. He told the assembly that his students, ranging in age from six to 18 years old, are scared about the uncertainty of what classes and sports will be cut.
“I’m here [at the assembly meeting] because my students are talking. Not talking about Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, not talking about the new Apple Vision Pro or the latest iteration of Call of Duty. They are talking, and talking daily, about quote, unquote, ‘the budget’,” Mr. Jackson said.
KIBSD’s Board of Education is scheduled to hold a work session Monday, Feb. 5 to potentially discuss a draft budget for fiscal year 2025.
In recent years the school district has shared a draft budget with the assembly sometime in March.
Otherwise, the Borough Assembly had a straightforward meeting Thursday night with no resolutions or ordinances on the agenda.
Assembly members were however informed of a seat opening up on the Parks and Recreation Committee. Committee member Travis Cooper sent his resignation letter to the borough on Jan. 17 and now the borough is officially accepting applications to fill the vacancy. Interested applicants can fill out a form online and send it to the KIB office.
After a split vote from the Borough Assembly, Mayor Scott Arndt and one Assembly member will be traveling to all six villages in the Kodiak Archipelago sometime before June 13. The original proposal suggested he only travel to five villages and the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, or SWAMC. The request was amended during Thursday’s meeting to add the sixth community, and exclude SWAMC, as Assembly member Jared Griffin will already be in attendance as a Board Member of SWAMC. Although the Borough approved the mayor’s travel, this puts him over budget by $7,000 according to a staff report from the Borough Clerk.
The borough assembly ended its regular meeting last week by going into executive session to discuss the latest updates in two lawsuits that are currently open against the Kodiak Island Borough.
Rebecca Nelson filed claims against the Borough and Bayside Fire Department in 2022, while property tax litigation continues between Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) and the Borough.