The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday quietly celebrated an announcement from Gov. Mike Dunleavy this week that he would not veto funding for education put forward in the state Legislature’s budget.
The announcement came during a Facebook Live town hall on Tuesday evening. Board President Matt Eisenhower said Wednesday that he had watched the video, and read news coverage of the announcement.
“I’m just going to read the quote. It said: ‘This year, we won’t look at reducing the size of the education budget. We will not veto that funding in any form or fashion. We will let that funding go through,’” Eisenhower said.
It’s not a done deal – there’s still a political argument at the state level. But it’s potentially good news for the local school district.
The board chose to be optimistic with the FY20 budget, despite the potential for deep cuts to state funding. The budget submitted to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly reflects a 3-percent reduction from what would have been a “status quo” spending plan.
Because of increased costs for salaries and benefits, the FY20 budget ended up somewhat higher than the current year’s spending plan, even after the 3-percent reduction.
Health insurance costs for the district are going up, and not just because of new labor agreements. District Business Manager Katie Parrott talked to the board about the result of a recent meeting with health insurance brokers.
“Based on our recent claims history, which has been – we’ve had a couple of difficult years for claims – we are facing an overall increase of 18.8 percent over our expected plan costs, which is significant,” she said.
Parrott said that number is the school district and Ketchikan Gateway Borough combined. But, she said, it’s a good number for planning purposes, and to help address any deficit in the insurance reserve fund.
Also Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved renewing contracts for 27 non-tenured teachers. The board traditionally approves those contracts earlier in the spring, but delayed the vote because of a challenging budget year.
Here’s Board Member Diane Gubatayao: “I just want to say thank you to the non-tenured staff for their patience as we worked through the budget and approved our budget. I appreciate their patience and (I’m) excited to approve their contract.”
In other matters, the board approved contracted services for speech pathology and occupational therapy. The district has not been able to fill those vacant positions, but is required to offer those services. The contracts total about $157,000.
The board also approved a contract of up to about $156,000 with Tyler Technologies to implement new software for finance and human resources.
The next regular Ketchikan School Board meeting is May 22.