The Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s FY20 budget was approved unanimously by the borough assembly Monday night, and the school district’s budget passed in a split vote.

The borough budget totals about $58 million. The borough’s contribution to the school district is about $10.6 million.

The Ketchikan School District’s budget is primarily funded through the state. It sits at about $40 million before some grants are added in. With those grants, the total spending authority for next year tops $45 million.

Most of the budget discussion focused on school spending. Assembly Member Rodney Dial wanted to reduce the school district’s spending authority by $780,000. He said that would bring spending in line with revenue, without dipping into any reserves.

“We discussed as recently as the last meeting that reserves are critical to bridge the gap between now and when new revenue would come online, and to provide a hedge against unforeseen expenses or loss of federal or state funding,” he said.  

Dial suggested that later, the borough could work with the City of Ketchikan on increasing the sales tax cap in order to fund any increased expenses for education, such as health insurance premiums.

Assembly Member Sue Pickrell agreed. She said reducing school funding by that amount is a prudent move for the future.

Others on the assembly disagreed. Assembly Member Alan Bailey displayed an image of the many elementary students from different schools who are taught music by a single teacher. He said it’s the borough’s responsibility to maintain opportunities for those children.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure those kids get every chance and opportunity… I’m talking about what our moral responsibility is to make sure these kids have a chance for their future,” he said. “They don’t understand budgets. They don’t understand anything except hope: Hope that they will someday be given a chance for something else. That they will succeed.”

Dial’s amendment failed 2-4 with Pickrell joining him in the minority. The school district’s requested spending authority then passed 4-2, with Dial and Pickrell voting no.

Assembly Member Sven Westergard did not participate in the school district budget discussion or vote because of a conflict of interest.

Also Monday, Borough Mayor David Landis read a memorial proclamation honoring former Rep. Bill Williams of Saxman, who died on May 12.