In a split vote, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted a second and final time on Monday to give the Ketchikan School District more money than the school board asked for.
The assembly was distinctly divided over the issue, with three members adamantly opposed. One of those is Sue Pickrell.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate. I really don’t,” she said. “They said, ‘Here’s what we need,’ and I believe we should have said, ‘Yes, this is exactly right.’ It’s not our job to determine what you spend your money on.”
During the assembly’s previous meeting, when the school district’s budget was in first reading, it was amended to add about $360,000. That brought the local contribution up to a level determined through a formula that the assembly and school board came up with a few years ago.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford proposed that change, and defended it on Monday. He said the borough’s property tax bill specifically states that the tax is for local schools.
“It does not say ‘Property tax for schools if the assembly feels like it.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Property tax for schools someday, if the assembly agrees.’ It said ‘Property tax for schools,’” he said. “I think we should live up to the obligation of what we are telling the taxpayers when they are so graciously writing that check to us for their taxes.”
The school board would not have to spend the money, he said. But it would be there if needed.
Bradford didn’t sway Pickrell, though, who proposed amending the motion back to the school board’s original requested amount.
Assembly members Rodney Dial and Alan Bailey also wanted to return to the lower amount for schools. Dial argued that giving more than requested would undermine the school board during contract negotiations with teachers; and Bailey said if the board didn’t request it, the assembly shouldn’t second-guess its members.
They were in the minority, though. Bradford, Judith McQuerry, Felix Wong and AJ Pierce voted against Pickrell’s amendment. It failed 3-4, so the higher amount remained.
The main motion then passed 4-3. Pickrell, Dial and Bailey voted no.
The assembly was more agreeable about the borough’s budget, which passed unanimously and with little discussion. During its last meeting, the assembly increased grant awards to some local nonprofit organizations. Those increases were not changed.
Also on Monday, the assembly agreed to cancel its regular July 2 meeting in consideration of the July 4 holiday.
The next assembly meeting is June 4.