My Turn: School stewardship neither arrogant nor greedy

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The time has come the walrus said

To speak of many things

Of sailing ships and sealing wax

Coaches Hamey and Knight - The law has acted, justice dispensed. Let the coaches and program move on and the healing begin.

Skaters Geldhof and Wheeler - There hasn't been so much ado about skating since the Canadian duo in the Olympics. Geldhof and Wheeler's time for icing is acknowledged, let's move on to the positive community opportunities of the ice arena.

Manager MacKinnon - John's done the work of two people since July. His work ethic and intelligence have always been exceptional. The city has profited all around from John MacKinnon's presence. Barring a deus et machina strike, however, he will be moving on.

And finally, the main purpose of this My Turn, the new high school - To build (or not to build) is not the question. The question is what does this community get for $46.9 million (already approved) and 70/30 reimbursement and what does it get for $62 million at 60/40 reimbursement? Perhaps the real question is what is the best combination?

Building a new high school in 1999 wasn't my first choice, but it was the voters' choice-acknowledged-moved on. The figure for reimbursement put on the ballot in 1999 was 50 percent. When the ballot language was being formulated in 1999, discussion on reimbursement ranged from 100 to 50 percent. The Assembly elected to put the worst case scenario on the ballot, but expected and ultimately got a better reimbursement split. The gist of this November's Proposition C reimbursement language is a 70 percent state/30 percent local split if Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) approves the need and components of the project and 60/40 split if voter-approved educational needs are submitted to DEED for review.

The School Board reviewed the final schematic plan this November and submitted them to the Assembly in December. The Assembly received the schematics in December and is scheduled to vote on them in January. The school board's job is to incorporate educational specifications into a design and present it to the Assembly. After the November election decided the legislative move issue and the Proposition C issue, the School Board presented the new high school schematics to the Assembly's Public Works and Facilities committee on Dec. 11. The Assembly is charged with examining the schematic options and the funding sources in a timely manner, making a decision, and then building the school. It is neither arrogant nor greedy to attempt to be good stewards of the community's financial resources in this undertaking.

As to timeliness in building, we do know that at $46.9 million we get a rejection of the present schematics, a month or so of redrawing and its concurrent expense and then a green light to build a new high school. At $62 million we get a special election and its concurrent expense. If the higher figure is approved at the special election we get a green light to build a new high school. If the higher figure is rejected, we face a decision of whether to regroup and try again with a different configuration or to redesign for the $46.9 million figure with its concurrent expense to redesign.

The more buildup there is on the capital side of the budget, the more pressure there is on the resources for the operating side in maintenance and staffing. Educational infrastructure is important, pupil-teacher ratio is very important, but most important is supporting our educational staff and paying them well. What's the cost of a new high school - somewhere between $46.9 million and $62 million. What's the worth of great teachers for Juneau's students - priceless.

Ken Koelsch is a member of the Juneau Assembly.

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