The Ketchikan School Board had its first look Wednesday at an early draft of the 2017-2018 school district budget, totaling about $33.7 million.

That amount is nearly $600,000 less than the current budget, primarily because of an expected lower student enrollment. The state funds education based on enrollment, and state funding for Ketchikan’s public schools is expected to drop by nearly $900,000 next year.

That drop is softened by local funding through the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and by a carryover of unspent funds from this year.

District Business Manager Adam Thompson said the draft budget so far has nothing below the “red line.” That line marks the amount of money the district expects to receive, so items below that line are unfunded.

Things could change as the Legislature starts working through the state budget.

The draft 2017-2018 Ketchikan School District calendar, which is subject to revisions, was approved by the School Board on Wednesday. (Image from Ketchikan School Board meeting packet)

The draft 2017-2018 Ketchikan School District calendar, which is subject to revisions, was approved by the School Board on Wednesday. Click for a larger view. (Image from Ketchikan School Board meeting packet)

“We just took what we do know. The governor released his state budget on Dec. 15th. It was status quo. The BSA (Base Student Allocation) remained the same at $5,930 per student,” Thompson said. “Using that, and the student projection at the top of this budget, you can derive the state foundation funding for FY18 at this time. We’ll remain vigilant in paying attention to the Legislature and see if there’s any sort of changes and what not, but that’s what we have so far.”

Thompson said borough officials have indicated what they expect to provide as the local contribution, which is about $8 million. That’s the combined required local contribution and discretionary funding. That doesn’t include in-kind services.

The School Board will have a series of budget review meetings leading up to its late April deadline for adopting a spending plan. The first special budget meeting is set for Feb. 7th at the Ketchikan High School library.

Also Wednesday, the School Board approved a first reading of a new policy that would allow students to test out of core classes. The board also approved a first draft of next year’s school calendar.

The calendar generated some discussion, particularly the scheduled winter break, which would take place just before the last week of the quarter, which is finals week.

Bella Posey, a high school student in the audience, told the School Board that having finals week right after winter break is not ideal. One option suggested was scheduling the end of the quarter – and thus finals – before the winter break.

Posey preferred that option.

“So what steps would we need to go through as students who are participating to try and schedule our finals before the break?” she asked, and then turned to other students in the audience for backup. “You guys can chime in, too. Who wants to put the finals before the break? Does anyone not want to put the finals before the break?”

The students, there as a government class assignment, all indicated they would prefer finals before winter break.

Board President Trevor Shaw said that while the school district calendar needs to consider everyone’s needs, the students’ input will be useful as the calendar committee continues working on the school schedule.