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Dillingham city council approves $1.4 million in school funding, but may up it before July

 Dillingham music teacher Jon Bell testifies during a city council meeting on April 6, 2023.
Izzy Ross
Dillingham music teacher Jon Bell testifies during a city council meeting on April 6, 2023.

The Dillingham City Council narrowly passed an amended motion to fund the school at $1.4 million with the option of calling an additional meeting to discuss further school funding in the coming months.

The decision comes after extensive debate on whether the city could afford to allocate the school’s requested $1.7 million, or whether it should wait until it finalized its own budget and received word on the base student allocation set by the state.

During the meeting, members put forward two amendments to the $1.4 million funding motion from the prior session. First, Aksel Buholm moved to fund the school at $1.7 million.

“We’re doing this for the kids. No other reason but for the kids,” he said.

Councilmember Kurt Armstrong also supported the measure, saying that funding the school at $1.7 would remove the uncertainty the school is contending with in planning for next year.

But the $1.7 million funding amendment failed, with Mayor Alice Ruby casting the tie-breaking vote against it.

Among those against funding the school at that higher amount was Councilmember Perry Abrams, who noted that the city has operated at a deficit for the past few years, and that they have an obligation to keep the entire community running. He also said the city needed to finalize its own budget before committing more money to the school.

Councilmember Kim Johnson moved to fund the school at $1.4 million with the option of holding a meeting to allocate additional funding on or before July 1.

“I think we're in a really difficult spot," she said. "We have to respond to the district by a certain time, and it's not the most ideal time because we're in our own budget process, and we don't know what the state is doing. And that's what's causing this angst.”

Johnson said that given more time, the city will have a better sense of its own situation and the school's budget needs.

Councilmember Michael Bennett raised the possibility of adding a stipulation to the amendment stating that the city would give more funding to the school should the state not meet its needs.

“Can we have a contingency that if the state does not allocate $700,000 to the school that the city would fund the school up to $1.7 million?” he asked.

In the end, however, the motion was not changed, and the council voted 5 - 1 to approve $1.4 million in funding with the option to hold another meeting before July. The council actually voted on that amendment twice; after the first vote, members continued discussion and voted on that amendment again, with a tied vote the second time around. Ruby cast the tie-breaking ‘yes’ vote.

Both councilmembers and Ruby said they wanted to revisit the issue soon; Ruby stressed that the school would be part of the discussion in future meetings regardless of the amendment to revisit the budget.

“The city in no way intends to leave the school hurting,” she said. “We just need a little longer to figure out how we're going to get there.”

The council anticipates another meeting on the school budget issue before July 1, but that date has not yet been set.

Disclaimer: The Dillingham City School District owns KDLG's broadcasting license, but it does not influence or direct our coverage.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.
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