The Ketchikan Gateway Borough and school district budgets were introduced Monday by the borough assembly with no changes.
The borough budget totals nearly $58 million. The local contribution requested by the school district totals about $10.6 million.
During public comment, teacher Sarah Campbell told the assembly that she’s proud of the district’s superintendent and finance director for putting together a budget that will allow teachers to do their jobs.
Campbell also is vice president of the Ketchikan Education Association. Assembly Member Rodney Dial asked her whether the union had ideas for funding the district’s request.
Campbell said she hasn’t asked union membership. Answering for herself, she cited the borough’s education reserve fund.
“So when our district doesn’t spend as much as what’s budgeted for that fiscal year, it can go back in the savings account that the borough assembly holds onto, and then we can appropriate that in other years,” she said. “We are solvent. We have over $4 million in that education fund.”
Dipping into that fund requires a supermajority vote of the borough assembly.
Assembly discussion of the borough budget was brief. Most of the discussion focused on the district’s spending plan. Dial wanted to know what level of local funding would be needed to avoid using any reserves, including the education reserve fund.
Here’s Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao: “You would have to reduce the request of $5.7 million, you’d have to reduce it by $833,000.”
The $5.7 million is the discretionary contribution requested by the district. That’s the amount over the required minimum contribution.
The Ketchikan School District’s budget is about $40 million before some expected grants are added in. With those grants, the total spending authority requested by the district for next year tops $45 million.
That’s more than the current year’s spending. The increase is primarily due to new contracts that adjusted wages and benefits for district bargaining groups.
District Finance Director Katie Parrott told the assembly that the budget is a work in progress. The district was required to submit a budget by May 1st.
“We had to get out a budget and put forward a budget to the bodies to be approved according to the timelines that are established in statute,” she said. “But this process is going to be continuing through the summer in terms of really taking a look at all of our operations across the district and really making wise decisions based on stewarding the public’s money.”
Parrott noted that the district has scaled back programming and reduced staffing. Most of the reduced personnel costs were through not filling vacant positions, and restructuring other positions to fill those needs.
She said some costs, such as utilities, can’t be cut. Assembly Member AJ Pierce suggested that the borough talk to Ketchikan Public Utilities about a special rate for school buildings.
Both the borough and school district spending plans passed unanimously in first reading. Assembly Member Sue Pickrell encouraged the public to contact the assembly and provide input before the budgets return for a public hearing and second vote.
Both budgets will be back in front of the assembly at its next meeting, set for May 20.