Two members of the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly have proposed a possible solution to funding Kodiak College programs locally.
However, the concept would require a vote in the October local elections and the introduction of a 0.1 million rate for property tax.
MP Duane Dvorak, one of the co-authors of the proposed vote, said during a working session on Thursday that recent budget discussions had led him to consider funding post-secondary education.
The district has sponsored Kodiak College, which previously funded its JumpStart and Persistence Pays student advancement programs. The programs are available to freshmen and high school students in dual enrollment programs and provide funding for up to six credit hours for Kodiak-based courses.
Dvorak said some residents referred him to a special account held by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which provided more than $ 12 million to support the University of Alaska satellite campuses between 1992 and 2018.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough set up its fund in 1992 by valuing its own one-tenth of a mill rate for property values under a resolution passed by the local council.
“When I looked at it, I was intrigued by the idea and wondered if maybe we could repeat something similar here and get the public to believe how much support they have for post-secondary education,” said Dvorak.
As a second class district, the Kodiak Island Borough has powers and responsibilities to promote education. It provides local money to the Kodiak Island Borough School District every budget cycle.
To date, the district’s support for Kodiak College has been through its nonprofit line items. For the coming fiscal year, Kodiak College will receive $ 100,000 for its JumpStart program, up from $ 50,000 for fiscal 2021.
At previous meetings, Kodiak College director Jacelynn Keys said the college had tightened admission requirements for its JumpStart program to expand funding.
Dvorak said nothing was stopping the district from stopping on the move and suggested extending its educational support to college, albeit to a lesser extent.
“It has its place and serves the community and the local economy,” said Dvorak. However, he could not imagine the college as a nonprofit when it comes to funding.
“I see them making this money by educating and educating our residents so they can have better lives and better jobs,” said Dvorak. He added that this was one of the few options on the island to get college-level in-person tuition.
The other option, says James Turner, is the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the Trident Basin.
“It’s part of our post-secondary facility on the island and they would be eligible for this grant if we moved forward,” said Turner. Turner added that the main point behind the proposed voting action was to focus on providing local opportunities for students, similar to Kodiak College’s JumpStart program.
“It’s not about fixing doors or hiring staff, it’s about helping the students who are from Kodiak or who live in Kodiak to attend these two colleges,” said Turner.
Dvorak said the new funding mechanism would be based on grants, with any institute able to apply for funding and be reviewed.
“If the public supported this, I think the assembly would spend one less thing during the budget process,” said Dvorak.
Congregation member Julie Kavanaugh asked that the ordinance address residency issues when applied to students. She also asked if the ordinance was intended to cast a wider web beyond Kodiak College and possibly the UAF program.
Turner made it clear that the funding generated by the Mill Rate would not be limited to just JumpStart.
“It is in the hands of directors (university) to use these things just to fund these JumpStart-style things,” said Turner.
What was not used at the end of the year would be returned to the community and added to the fund for the next year.
Congregation member Geoff Smith said he was struggling with the concept of requiring a residence clause.
“I think when you bring people into your community, they buy goods and services and make money,” said Smith. He also asked for general clarity about what the funds would be used for, for example to subsidize university programs or, in particular, teaching or teaching materials and books for students.
Turner said the proposed measure was modeled on that of Kenai, which included a residence clause. He added that he was ready to look into opening up this option, “but the intention is to support residents with local taxpayers’ money.”
MP Scott Arndt also wanted more clarification, but was in favor of a residence clause. He was also concerned about how an increase in the milling tariff might affect the county’s overall tax cap.
“It will take away what we can use to pay our other bills and run our government,” said Arndt. “That’s the main reason I have a problem with it.”
He added that the income from the mill fee for certain purposes was usually spent on other areas over time.
Borough Mayor Bill Roberts suggested that the milling tariff could be set up so that it does not affect the tax cap, much like there are service counties with their milling tariffs.
The item will be available for discussion and possible further development at the regular assembly on Thursday, which is scheduled for 6.30 p.m.