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Bond package fuels fire between House, govorner

Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2000

The Senate's bond package, in what should be its final form, was moved out of the Senate Finance Committee Monday evening but didn't go to a vote on the Senate floor.

That gave time for Juneau officials to consider implications of what's in the close to $300 million bond proposal -- and what's out.

Juneau has some $12.3 million worth of the projects included in the bond proposal, which would rely on four different kinds of bond arrangements -- one backed by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., another by expected revenues from the state's settlement with tobacco companies and two backed by state savings.

Among the included projects is $5.5 million for new classrooms at the University of Alaska Southeast and $1.3 million for deferred maintenance there.

Things get a little tricky for a set of school projects, including the replacement of roofs at Auke Bay and Harborview elementary schools and renovations to Floyd Dryden Middle School. The state's pledge toward the projects adds up to $5.4 million. However, they're dependent on Juneau coming up with another $2.3 million.

Gary Bader, superintendent of the Juneau School District, said it could mean asking voters for a local bond package.

``It's something the assembly would have to approve to take to the voters,'' he said. ``Since they are very needed repairs, I'm sure the assembly would support it.''

He thinks Juneau would support a bond package, although it may be difficult for some given the town's recent approval of a bond issue of about $63 million for a new high school and renovating Juneau-Douglas High School.

City Manager Dave Palmer said a bond package may not be a cost-effective way to raise $2.3 million, though it may be the only way. The potential of municipal property taxes being capped could leave the city with an unbalanced budget -- and leaky school roofs.

``It's always a tradeoff,'' Palmer said.

This version of the package omits $1.8 million worth of work on the state-owned harbors at Auke Bay, Douglas and Taku Harbor that were included earlier.

The projects and the money, just more than $300 million, are pretty much set as far as the Senate's concerned, said Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican.

But Gov. Tony Knowles said Monday that the package isn't enough. There are $342 million of new schools, major repairs to schools and other school projects are on his agenda. The Senate gets to about $193 million of them.

He said in a letter to GOP leaders that the projects being picked aren't fair, and don't follow a priority list put together by the Department of Education.

Knowles noted that the package puts up money for new schools voters haven't approved, while not including money for Juneau's new high school, which voters said they'd help fund.

He also said rural schools weren't getting enough help.

Torgerson, the Senate majority's lead person on the bond package, said he had a direct reaction to the governor's letter.

``I threw it on the floor,'' he said. ``He's not showing any fiscal restraint.''

Torgerson said almost a third of the school projects go to rural districts. He also suggested that within a couple of years, another bond package could come out that will take care of what the current proposal doesn't.

``We're going to address these needs,'' he said.



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