Comment on CSD budget at Dec. 19 public hearing

Proposed school district budget is $400,000 below requested

By Barb Jewell

For The Cordova Times

It is that time of year. No, I am not referring to Christmas. It is final budget time and the Cordova City Council has been working hard these last two months to develop a final budget for 2019.

As in many communities across the state, because of declining state revenues and support for municipalities, difficult decisions need to be made regarding allocation of resources, what services will be provided and at what level. One of these decisions is in regard to funding Cordova schools.

The current budget before the council proposes to fund the school district at a flat $1.5 million; the same amount they have provided for the past two years. It is roughly the same amount the school district was funded in 2014. It is $400,000 less than the school district has stated it needs from the city. The amount remains the same despite the city receiving an unanticipated $630,721 in Secure Rural School funds last month.

For the past two years, the school district was advised by several council members, in public meetings and in individual conversations, to rely on our fund balance to make up the difference between what they provided and what the district needed because the city was short on funds. We have done so and now without the requested funding we run the risk of drawing our fund balance to below $0. This is not a secure financial position to be in.

The Cordova School District has spent the past 3 years deeply analyzing the needs of the students, the capacity of the schools, the budget and the community’s education priorities. We presented the city with a thoughtfully prepared budget request of $1.9 million based on the needs of students and the district. Their proposal is significantly less than what is needed and cannot help but negatively impact education delivery in the community.

In a recent city council budget workshop, in reference to investing in the harbor, City Manager Alan Lanning stated “if we are not moving forward, we are going backwards.” Well, this statement certainly applies to education as well. Underfunding our education system will not move our students or education in Cordova forward.

As a community we need to have critical conversations about what services we want and what we are willing to pay for. As we have these conversations it is my hope that we remember that education is not only identified in our state constitution as a priority for funding but that property taxes were designed to fund local public education.

Cordova has always prioritized education. Let’s not stop now.

This Wednesday, Dec. 19, the city council is having a public hearing on the budget and will be taking a first vote in their regular meeting. Please consider attending and letting them know that education is a priority in Cordova.

You can view the proposed budget documents at: http://www.cityofcordova.net/images//cityclerk/2018/Agendas_and_Packets/12-19-18%20Public%20Hearing%20Packet.pdf.

Barb Jewell is the president of the Cordova School District Board of Education.