Ketchikan High School. (KRBD file photo)

Ketchikan’s school board is poised to keep education funding for next year essentially the same as it was this year. That’s despite an objection from the school board’s president, who said he wanted more money to help students catch up.

The total $41 million budget is essentially flat from last year. Ketchikan’s borough assembly is talking about allocating a quarter million dollars less for schools this year. An increase in state aid is projected to fill the gap.

District business manager Katie Parrott said next school year’s draft budget aimed to fulfill many requests from educators and meet the board’s goals: “to prioritize our core programming, to prioritize special education programming, to prioritize increased need for contributions to our health insurance program, and to also leverage relief funds for allowable costs to address health and safety response to COVID to address learning, loss and implement strategies for learning recovery.”

But she said the current proposal is about $1.7 million less than what had been recently proposed. She says the $250,000 cut in local funding makes that necessary.

“As you know, and as I think we all know, in Ketchikan, we’re working within an environment of decreasing revenues, both on the local level and the state level,” Parrot said.

School board President Kim Hodne complained that the school board wasn’t asking for enough local aid. He called on the borough assembly to commit more local funding for schools.

“You guys are the purse strings. If this is what this board brings to you in a responsible way, and it covers the bases that have to be covered for the kids’ education, then it’s up to the borough. It’s up to the purse strings to figure out how to get us that or you tell us why we’re wrong in the budget that we’ve presented,” Hodne said.

He says Ketchikan’s students need more — not less — support for academics as they recover from disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the lone board member to vote against the budget. Other board members asked district administrators whether this budget would meet the requests of educators. They were told an answer would come at a future meeting.

The school board will hold its final public hearing on the draft budget at 6 p.m. April 28. It faces a May 1 deadline to finalize its funding request for next year.

The school district superintendent and business manager are set to answer questions from members of the public in the Ketchikan High School library at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Ketchikan’s school board is scheduled to meet in the library for a work session on the budget at 6 p.m. Thursday.