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UCSD Receives Full Funding From City Of Unalaska

Laura Kraegel

Unalaska's public schools will once again receive the city's full financial support — even as other municipal grants are stretched thin.

Last week, the City Council unanimously approved a $4.35 million funding request by the Unalaska City School District (UCSD).

Superintendent John Conwell thanked councilors for continuing the city's long tradition of making the maximum contribution allowed by state law.

"There's no other municipality that's been this consistent when it comes to funding schools to the cap," said Conwell. "When I talk to my colleagues around the state, they're very envious that I'm not fighting battles at the level that they have to fight in their local communities."

The city's contribution for fiscal year 2020 is about six percent more than this year's, reflecting the district’s slightly higher budget.

About $3.2 million will go toward meeting the state cap on local funding. The remaining $1.1 million will serve as additional funds for UCSD's preschool, food services, and community schools programs, which are unrestricted.

With city funding settled, Conwell said the district is now waiting on the state Legislature, which is weighing deep cuts to public education.

"With the governor's proposed budget that came out in February, with the counter budget the House proposed a few weeks ago, and now sitting back and watching the Senate, we're still really not sure what our level of state funding will be this year," he said. "We probably won't know until late in the summer."

While the district is projecting a state contribution of about $4.3 million, it stands to lose as much as 30 percent of that funding under the proposal by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

If the money comes through, Conwell said UCSD should be able to maintain all of its personnel and programs. If not, the district will have to make cuts or draw on its savings.

He said the state budget debate has also forced UCSD and the Unalaska Education Association to postpone its next round of teacher contract negotiations until the fall.

Many of Unalaska's nonprofits are in the same wait-and-see position. With lawmakers battling over state spending, organizations are bracing for reduced or eliminated grants — especially after the City Council voted to fully fund just seven of this year's 12 applicants for local support funding.

City officials are still working on Unalaska's roughly $30 million budget, which is projected to run up a deficit as high as $8 million.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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