The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly introduced the school district and borough budgets Monday, with some revisions to the projected revenue in the school district’s proposed spending plan.
The Ketchikan School Board approved the FY2017 budget last week, and sent it to the Assembly for review. Borough management recommended some adjustments to the district budget, including a more conservative estimate of federal Secure Rural Schools funding.
But, Assembly Member Glen Thompson thought the borough’s estimate was a little too conservative.
“Throughout our deliberations of the budget this year, up until this agenda item was put out, we were looking at an estimate of $700,000 from the U.S. Forest Service for payments under the Federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act,” he said. “And in this particular agenda item, that number has been reduced all the way down to $80,000.”
Thompson says he believes it was reduced to that level to require a supermajority of five votes – which is triggered when the borough dips into the school reserves fund beyond a certain level.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford suggested amending the amount to reflect an expected Secure Rural Schools payment of $750,000, but then Thompson said that’s too high. He wanted an estimated payment of $472,951, which would then remove the need for a supermajority vote.
Bradford complied, and the amendment passed.
The Assembly also increased the costs associated with in-kind services to the schools, including services provided by service areas. The borough pays for those items, but they will show as a schools-related expense. The Assembly did not, however, increase the in-kind services value of the Gateway Aquatic Center or use of athletic fields, as recommended by the borough manager.
That led Assembly Member John Harrington to vote against the school district budget, when the main motion came to the floor.
“As this sits now, I feel I cannot possibly vote in favor of it,” he said. “This is violating my oath of office and in fact it does not reflect clearly the market value for services we provide to the district.”
Harrington was the only “no” vote on the motion to introduce the approximately $40 million school district budget, which will come back for a second reading on May 16th. He asked borough management to prepare more detailed information about how much the school district uses the pool and fields, to present during that meeting.
The Assembly also introduced the $53.2 million borough budget following a lengthy work session. There was discussion during the work session about eventually raising property tax rates, and whether it’s proper to fund community nonprofit agencies out of the borough’s economic development fund.
But, when the Assembly came back into regular session to vote, it made no changes to the borough budget before voting unanimously to introduce it. That budget also will come back for a second reading on May 16th, although the Assembly isn’t required to adopt its budget until mid-June.
Also last night, the Assembly introduced an ordinance that would increase airport rates for after-hours services, and would pass the cost of credit card fees to ferry passengers who use cards to pay the toll. That also will come back for a second reading.