Juneau voters will see two separate high school bond issues on a June 3 special election ballot.
The Juneau Assembly on Monday voted unanimously to add $12.5 million in bond funding for Juneau-Douglas High School and other school projects to the June election. The ballot already includes $12.6 million in bonding for a Mendenhall Valley high school.
The Juneau School District, which earlier asked the Assembly to place the new JDHS bonding on the October ballot, supported a June election on Monday. School Board President Chuck Cohen said the change came after meetings with Assembly members and the Juneau Chamber of Commerce last week.
"It appears that many of the divisive points that had been raised earlier have largely been laid to rest," he said. "(We have had) very collegial discussions which appear to suggest that all parties concerned are prepared to get behind both of these ballot propositions. ... It was strictly and solely our concern that these issues not be made to compete with one another in a political arena."
A June election will allow the city to take advantage of low interest rates and state support, according to a resolution presented by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce board of directors. In addition, construction costs could increase by fall and voters might question why both school issues weren't on the same ballot, the resolution said.
Assembly member Ken Koelsch, who voted against increasing the Mendenhall Valley high school construction budget earlier this year, has expressed strong support for a June election for the JDHS funding. He said he was excited about Monday's vote.
"I'm focused on the JDHS (renovation) and I'll stay focused on the JDHS (renovation)," he said. "I didn't throw any votes any way to put (JDHS) on the ballot. That stood on its own merits so there weren't any back room deals cut on that."
Assembly member Stan Ridgeway, a former Juneau School Board member, said it will be important to explain the two ballot measures to the public. And it will be up to the school district to look at funding needs for other projects, such as Floyd Dryden Middle School, he said.
"I'm for doing everything we need to do with the remodel project, but I don't think we throw everything out the window to do that," he said. "We have to look at it in an appropriate order."
Assembly member Dale Anderson said he has and will support the Mendenhall Valley high school project. The two high school ballot measures will complement each other, he said.
"Now we have the opportunity of unifying the two," he said. "Folks in town will realize the downtown school will be on a par with the facilities that are planned for the Valley."
The JDHS bond issue would allow the city to leverage 70 percent state reimbursement at no extra cost to taxpayers. If the bond is funded fully by the state, the JDHS project budget would jump from $21 million to $26.7 million. The measure also would free $2.35 million in funding for other school projects, of which $1.7 million is restricted to JDHS or the new high school.
Acting City Manager Donna Pierce said the city will provide more details about exactly how the money will be used before the election. School district and city officials have suggested the extra JDHS funding be used for furnishings, a sports field, the main entry and parking.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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