The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday introduced a substitute budget for the Ketchikan School District that assumes no increase in state spending to districts this session, reducing the district’s requested spending authority by about $614,000.
The body spent about an hour and 40 minutes discussing the proposed budget and asking questions to borough staff hypotheticals about approving a district budget if the state does not increase the base student allocation by $100, which the district budget is based on.
The final vote on both the substitution motion and the introduction itself was 5-2, with Assembly members Austin Otos and Judith McQuerry opposing the vote. Many members who supported the reduction said they understood the challenging position the district was in, but felt that it could put the borough at risk by appropriating local funding on an assumption of higher state funding than what ends up approved.
State lawmakers are still not close to adopting a state budget, with the last day of the session on Wednesday. The Senate has recommended increasing the base student allocation by $680, which would fund the district to the levels it says it needs to adequately fund education while restoring cuts to some parts of the budget and reducing pressure on local taxpayers to fill the gap left by the state.
With the substitute budget introduced on Monday, district staff will meet to discuss ways to potentially reduce about a quarter of a million dollars from the budget beyond what they believe the district can reduce through grants and other small cuts in the event that the Legislature does not approve a BSA increase, Acting District Business Manager Daniel Schuler said in an interview after the meeting. The district had planned for a reduction, though the amount that the Assembly ultimately reduced on Monday was slightly greater than what the district had anticipated, he said.
Still, Schuler said, the district has time to consider its budgeting options while the Legislature deliberates. That will truly determine how it budgets for the coming year.
The Assembly will take up consideration of the budget again for a final public hearing on Monday, May 22.
The Assembly on Monday also voted 5-2 to postpone the transfer of $1 million from the borough’s General Fund into its Local Education Fund until its July 17 meeting, with McQuerry and Otos again dissenting.
At the start of its meeting the Assembly voted down a proposal to raise its sales tax cap to $4,000. The final vote, after the adoption of amendments, was 2-5, with McQuerry and Otos voting in favor.