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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

But Wait, There's More!

By Dan Bockhorst


April 08, 2018
Sunday PM

I appreciate Rodney Dial’s illuminating and sobering comments published in SitNews on April 4. I also value his diligence and discipline in safeguarding taxpayers’ money.

Reflecting on Mr. Dial’s commentary brought to mind the phrase popularized by Ron Popeil, an inventor and marketing personality: "But wait, there's more!"

On April 11, the School Superintendent will submit his budget proposal for next fiscal year to the School Board. The Superintendent has matter-of-factly advised the School Board and Borough Assembly that he will seek a $3.9-million “discretionary” cash contribution from the Borough.

However, because the Superintendent neglected to put his proposal in context, taxpayers and local officials may not appreciate the nature of his quest. The $3.9 million discretionary contribution which the Superintendent plans to seek, amounts to a whopping 12.59% increase over this year. But wait, there’s more!

The sought-after $3.9 million discretionary contribution is over and above the $4,689,240 cash “contribution” that the Borough will be required to make to the District next fiscal year. That figure is also substantially more than the current-year figure. Taxpayers in Ketchikan are forced by the State of Alaska to pay that nearly $4.7 million next year, while residents of more than one-third of all school districts in Alaska are given a free ride by the State. Incredibly, there is no rational justification for the disparity. But wait, there’s more!

The Superintendent’s budget proposal will not reflect school debt service for which the full faith and credit of Borough taxpayers have been pledged. Those who like to make comparisons between Ketchikan and Anchorage when it suits them will find school debt service costs recognized in the Anchorage School District budget.

School debt service for our school district amounts to some $3.5 million annually ($3,510,233 in the current fiscal year). Also missing from the Superintendent’s budget is hundreds of thousands of dollars for major maintenance of the 498,676-square feet of school facilities in Ketchikan. But wait, there’s more!

For the past five years, the School District operating costs have been greatly understated by the District’s refusal to recognize hundreds of thousands of dollars expended each year by the Borough to provide services and facilities to the School District.

It will be illuminating to see how the School Board acts after examining the merits of the Superintendent’s April 11 request for a 12.59% increase in the Borough’s discretionary contribution to the District.

Additionally, we’ll soon learn whether the School Board will be transparent with local taxpayers in next fiscal year’s budget by identifying the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Borough expenditures for services and facilities to the School District which have gone unrecognized for the past five years. It’s noteworthy that the Borough Code (Section 4.05.015) calls for transparency and accountability with respect to Borough and School District budgets, accounting, and financial reporting. The stated objective in Borough Code is to promote trust and confidence in the financial reporting of the Borough and School District.

Dan Bockhorst
Ketchikan, Alaska


About: Dan Bockhorst, a retired resident of Ketchikan, served for more than nine years as the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Manager.

Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received April 05, 2018 - Published April 08, 2018

Related Viewpoint:

letter Ketchikan is one of the highest taxed areas in Alaska By RODNEY DIAL




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