New Juneau H.S. doesn't make the cut

Governor aims to spend $212 million, but not here

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2002

A new Juneau high school did not make the cut on a wish list of school construction and major maintenance projects released by Gov. Tony Knowles.

A school bonds package unveiled by the governor Friday seeks to spend $212 million on eight school construction projects and 81 major school maintenance projects statewide over the next two years.

The proposal would fund the highest priorities on a list of school needs compiled by the state Department of Education, said Bob King, a spokesman for Knowles, a Democrat.

The package would fund the first eight of 58 construction projects on the priority list, said King, noting the Juneau high school ranks No. 38.

Knowles' long-term vision is for the state to fund all school construction and maintenance needs over the next six years, King said. At that rate, the Juneau high school proposal probably would not get a state cash infusion for four or five years, he said.

"The Juneau project never ranked that highly on the (priority) criteria that's set in statute, but as projects are taken care of, it's moving up on the list," said King, who noted the Juneau school jumped from a ranking of No. 52 two years ago.

Knowles' announcement does not mean Juneau has no chance to get money for the school this year. House Speaker Brian Porter has said the Republican majority may introduce its own bonds package for school projects.

Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton said he was disappointed that the Juneau school was not included in the Knowles' package but noted he supported the governor's approach to school funding. It's better to fund projects in order of need rather than by political persuasion, Elton said.

"Sticking to the list protects those communities that don't have 25 legislators, and I think that's very, very important," he said.

Knowles' proposal would authorize a vote in the 2002 general election on $212 million in general obligation bonds for schools. If approved by voters, the state would spend $101 million next year and $109 million in 2004. The remaining $2 million would pay costs of bond sale and issuance, Knowles said.

The money would fund eight school construction projects over two years in Tuluksak, Akiak, Akiachak, Scammon Bay, Teller, Hooper Bay, Circle, and Naukati Bay. It also would fund 81 of 115 major school maintenance projects in communities statewide.

Juneau does not have any projects left on the list of major maintenance needs, said King, the governor's spokesman, who noted the Legislature approved a $9 million appropriation last year to renovate Juneau-Douglas High School.

Juneau voters in 1999 authorized up to $62.9 million in general obligation bonds to fix up JDHS and to build a new high school at Dimond Park, provided that the state reimburse at least half the bond debt for the projects. The new school was budgeted at $50 million.

Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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