The Ketchikan School Board approved a somewhat scaled-down FY20 budget Wednesday in hopes that drastic cuts proposed by the governor are held in check by the Legislature.
The vote to approve the budget wasn’t unanimous, though. Board Member Bridget Mattson said she thinks the district should have cut more. She cast the only dissenting vote.
Mattson said it’s encouraging that the House and Senate have moved forward with more funding for education than Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed in his budget. But
“I have not seen the governor change his rhetoric an ounce,” she said. “So I don’t think these are enough cuts.”
The governor has line-item veto power. The Legislature can override vetoes with a supermajority vote, but that is challenging to achieve.
The cuts reflect a 3-percent decrease from a status-quo budget. It is still about $130,000 more than the budget for the current fiscal year, though. Board President Matt Eisenhower said that’s due to inflation and some increased costs from new employee contracts.
Eisenhower invited Mattson or any board member to offer an amendment to further reduce the proposed budget. No amendments were suggested.
Board Member Diane Gubatayao said that even if Dunleavy vetoes funding for education, there may well be enough votes in the Legislature to override it.
“I don’t know if it’s something we can bank on, but I do want to repeat: They were so close to the number of votes needed to override vetoes — 41 votes out of 45,” she said. “And education was at the top as to what the majority would support.”
Gubatayao said that makes her hopeful in a reserved way.
One member of the public commented on the district’s budget, suggesting that the school board wait until after the state’s funding for education is known. However, waiting was not an option. The board is legally obligated to submit a budget to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough by May 1st.
Board Member Rachel Breithaupt encouraged the public to contact legislators about education funding. She said she never called elected representatives until the last couple of years, so she understands why people can be reluctant.
“I initially felt very nervous about doing it. It’s actually a really empowering experience,” she said. “If you need to write something out for yourself – it can be as simple as ‘I support full funding for the schools in the state.’ So anybody watching this or listening to this or in the room right now: 907-465-3873 is Senator (Bert) Stedman’s number.”
Also Wednesday, the school board appointed Leslie Becker to fill the seat left vacant when Glen Thompson resigned from the board. Becker was one of three applicants for the seat, which will be open for the October local election.
The other two applicants were Gianna Flanery and David Timmerman.
In other matters, the board unanimously approved a new contract with district classified employees. The contract, which takes effect July 1st, will cost about $160,000 more in salaries.
The next Ketchikan School Board meeting will be May 8.