A Fiscal Year 2018 Ketchikan School District budget is on its way to the Ketchikan Borough Assembly following a unanimous vote Wednesday by the Ketchikan School Board.
Ketchikan Charter School kindergarten teacher Becky King talked to the Board before that vote. She said the draft budget is based on what the district needs to maintain the status quo. King suggested the Board explore what Ketchikan’s schools could look like with more funding.
“Every time I come to this School Board … you always say, ‘This is a conversation you have to have with the borough.’ Well, I do have this conversation with the borough,” she said. “But it would be a much more interesting conversation if I could go to them and say, ‘Look at the wonderful programs we could have, the amount of staff we could have, the amount of sport we could have, the amount of curriculum materials we could have, if you guys funded us to the cap.’”
School Board Member Glenn Brown said that while the borough doesn’t fund schools “to the cap,” which is the highest amount it’s allowed to give, the borough does give more than the base level required by state law.
“I feel like we have good support from the borough,” he said. “Could you always make use of more money? Absolutely. But I didn’t want there to be the sense that they’re short-sheeting us. Could they give more? They could choose to give more. But they’re also not doing the bare minimum.”
Board President Trevor Shaw said funding local schools to the cap would mean a tax hike.
“That would require a 2.1-mill increase, which is approximately a 42-percent property tax increase,” he said. “Just so that’s out there in everybody’s minds. It is a significant amount that would have to be raised in order to fund us to the cap. And that would be coming from local taxpayers.”
Board Member Diane Gubatayao said she’d like to at least look at what more money could do for local schools.
“Thinking big and what we would look like if we were funded to the cap,” she said. “That’s not a bad exercise to think about, actually.”
Other Board members agreed that could be a discussion item at a later time.
The school district’s FY18 budget shows state and borough revenue of about $33.7 million. Of that, about $8 million would come from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, through local property taxes.
State funding for education is still somewhat of a question as the Legislature continues to work on a state spending plan. The school district does have a reserve fund that can be used to cushion any large cuts by the state.
The local school district budget still needs to be reviewed and approved by the Borough Assembly.