The format for last week’s budget meeting was a first for the district when we made an interactive presentation broadcast (via MS Lync) to more than 20 of our schools. The goal of the meeting was to have our site councils, staff and community members gain a sense of our fiscal picture and then begin to chew on how to address the challenge of balancing our budget when expenditures exceed our revenue. From a business perspective it is easy to simply say make cuts until things balance. The reality of reducing our level of service to our students however, is complicated and painful. No one wants our district’s children to have fewer opportunities at school next year than they did this year. The meeting included time for the home sites to offer feedback on what we can do differently. Our school board will review these recommendations next week and in turn, give the administration direction for preparing our FY16 budget.
Overall, I feel that most would agree that our students on the Kenai get a pretty good education. I am convinced that our regular improvements and the expanded opportunities in career and technical education are leading to an increased graduation rate, lower dropout rate with students being better prepared for life after high school. The easy budget fix of reducing our level of service and support for our students is hard to swallow; our kids deserve the very best. Going forward, it is important for the public to consider the importance of well-educated high school graduates to our communities. Does it make sense for the borough and the state to pay a little bit more for education? With the premise of the district continuing to be transparent and accountable for its expenditures, the answer to this question is yes.