Local News

Assembly approves school district budget, but not unanimously

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly approved a $48 million school budget Tuesday night. The local contribution amounts to approximately $7.89 million. Because of state funding increases, the school district will receive full funding for fiscal year 2015, so there will be no layoffs or cuts.

Prior to the vote, Assembly Member Glen Thompson expressed his concerns.

“Well I’m glad everybody around this table is happy. I’m not particularly thrilled with a $48 million school budget. That works out to be almost $22,000 per student per year. I think you could probably send them all to Harvard for that.”

Thompson says when he first began serving on the assembly, the cost was about $12,000 per student. He also says he repeatedly asked the school board for details of a program-based budget, but that information was never delivered.

“So we really don’t know how much our high school costs us. I asked repeatedly for that over the past several months and basically was stone walled. I do appreciate the manager’s ability to pull some of these numbers together for us. I’m very disappointed in the school district, whether it be the superintendent or the school board, in not simply giving us, as funders, that simple piece of paper that we’ve used in all these years.”

Assembly member Alan Bailey spoke in defense of the budget. He worked for many years as an administrator in the State prison system. Bailey says investing in education is less expensive than incarceration, and can help keep people out of jail.

“Although there are some moments that I would wish to have greater information, I trust the integrity of the system, and the integrity and honesty of individuals trying to do the best job they can. The teachers are incredible. They do an amazing job and they care for our children. Those that are successful are normally those who stay out of our criminal justice system, and that is important to me because I have seen the other side of that fence.”

Before the final vote on the budget, the assembly voted on a substitute ordinance increasing the School Board’s spending authority by approximately $233,000.

Assembly members Bailey, Todd Phillips, Bill Rotecki, Mike Painter and Jim Van Horn voted in favor of the substitute ordinance and final budget. Thompson and assembly member Agnes Moran voted against both measures.

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