Ketchikan requests support from Petersburg in lawsuit against state
Ketchikan Gateway Borough officials are again requesting Petersburg’s, along with more than 30 other municipal government’s, assistance with its lawsuit against the state of Alaska.
Ketchikan is moving forward with its lawsuit over the ‘mandatory local contribution’ component of the state’s education funding formula that requires municipal districts to provide revenue back into its schools. Regional Educational Attendance Areas—education areas in the Unorganized Borough—aren’t required to make such payments.
In a letter from Ketchikan Mayor David Kiffer, he writes, “Since 2007, we have sought to bring attention to the irrational and unequal treatment of municipal school districts…the payment does not increase the funds provided in any district, but is merely a subsidy to the State, replacing the State funds to which the municipal district would otherwise be entitled under the State’s funding formula.”
The Ketchikan borough is requesting political, legal and financial support from Petersburg and other municipal governments.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough will pursue three claims against the state, one of which is that the mandatory local contribution is a “State-imposed tax, the proceeds of which are dedicated to pay for the State’s responsibility to pay for education,” an undedicated tax that the letter states violates the Alaska Constitution.
Ketchikan officials anticipate the lawsuit will cost more than $500,000 in legal fees.
During the last Petersburg Borough assembly meeting, Mayor Mark Jensen remarked that the issue was brought to the assembly several years ago.
“Our school superintendent looked at it and he didn’t think, at that time, it fit for us to help,” Jensen said.
And it doesn’t look like anything has changed since then.
Superintendent Rob Thomason said if local funding is replaced by increased state funding, officials should expect less control over their district.
“Increased reliance on state funding will likely result in a reduced level of funding and a local program inferior to the current program,” Thomason stated in an email.
Ketchikan paid $4.2 million in mandatory local contribution for fiscal year 2014.
Petersburg paid roughly $1.8 million for its share.