KODIAK — Three and a half million dollars is a scary deficit.

Perhaps that’s why no member of the public testified Monday night at the Kodiak Island Borough School District board of education preliminary budget work session.

The session was intended to present the Alaska Legislature’s school funding bills and gather public input on the budget, but when the time came, none of the 30 parents and school district employees in attendance stepped up.

Don Dumm, who has one son in fifth grade at Main Elementary and another in Kodiak High School, attended Monday’s meeting with a list of proposed cuts, but said he decided against speaking at the last minute.

“I have some concerns about closing a school, and I think the budget can be fixed in other ways,” he said.

School district employee Margaret Reed also attended the meeting and said she, too, was surprised by the lack of comment.

“I did not expect that,” she said.

The preliminary budget published by the school district lists how Kodiak schools would operate if no cuts were needed. Due to decreased revenue from the state and the expiration of federal stimulus funding, the district has a $3.5 million gap between revenue and expenditures, and must make cuts.

District staff has proposed two primary ways of making good that shortfall: Eliminating most non-core programs — things like music education, math and reading assistance, and teacher improvement — or consolidating the district’s four elementary schools into three. The school likely to be closed is Main Elementary.

Schools superintendent Stewart McDonald said most of the people in attendance Monday had already testified in at least one of a half-dozen meetings he held last week at district schools.

“I’ve seen most of them … before,” he said.

McDonald will have a chance to meet with the public several more times before the school district wields the budget knife. The district hosts a regular meeting March 19, and at the April 9 meeting the district releases its recommended cuts. The following week, April 16, the board will vote to approve a finalized budget.

The district has also published an online survey about the budget and is asking for public input at its website, http://www.kibsd.org/display/dist/forms/7f0613aebd8d83fe1bcba3540d2951e1.

The budget must be sent to the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly by April 30, and the assembly will incorporate it into the borough budget in May.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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