How to pay local share?

Juneau school renovations await decision on local match

Posted: Monday, May 08, 2000

Juneau officials are grateful to get some state money for school repairs, but they have some questions about the funding bill.

Meanwhile, they're still on schedule for a new Mendenhall Valley high school -- if state funding is appropriated next year.

The school repair legislation, House Bill 281, would pay back 70 percent of the cost of debt for public school projects worth $7.72 million in Juneau, including principal and interest. It comes to $5.4 million in construction costs.

City Attorney John Corso said he is looking into whether the city can put up its 30 percent through a direct appropriation, or whether it would require bonds. It's also not clear whether a direct appropriation would require local voters' approval, as bonds would.

Taking the money from sales tax revenues, for example, would cost the city less because it wouldn't have to pay bond debt, said Mayor Dennis Egan.

The Juneau School District also wonders about wording in the bill that refers to authorizing rehabilitation projects worth over $200,000. Several of Juneau's projects are estimated to cost less than that.

``It is an open question,'' said Joe Mueller, the school district's maintenance and facilities supervisor. ``My sense is we could probably take some of our smaller projects and package them.''

The bill authorized renovations at Floyd Dryden Middle School, roof replacements at Auke Bay Elementary and the Marie Drake building, and gym floor replacements at Harborview Elementary, the Juneau-Douglas High School auxiliary gym and Floyd Dryden. It also authorized renovations of heating and ventilation systems at JDHS and replacing heating coils at Gastineau Elementary.

``The physical plant here has been something that has kind of been a thorn for some while,'' said Floyd Dryden Principal Sue Clifton.

The biggest problem is a cracked gym floor, she said. But Clifton also welcomed other planned renovations to the school, built in 1972. The district's capital plan includes replacing windows, doors, the roof, interior partitions, carpeting, flooring, ceiling tiles, plumbing and ventilation.

``All of it is needed. It needs a really good updating,'' Clifton said.

It's premature to say what the Juneau Assembly will do about the local share of funding, said Dwight Perkins, chairman of its Finance Committee.

``If we're going to put something together, we're going to have to move pretty quick,'' he said, referring to putting a bond question on the October city ballot.

It could come at a time when voters feel their purse strings tugged. The assembly plans to put the 3 percent sales tax on the ballot this year for reauthorization, Perkins said. And it might put up the 1 percent sales tax, too.

Meanwhile, locals will look to next year's Legislature for partial funding for a $50 million high school at Dimond Park and $13 million in renovations to JDHS. The new high school would still be on track to open in fall 2004 if funding comes through next year, officials have said.

The city recently chose the Juneau firm Minch-Ritter-Voelckers Architects, in association with a national firm, Fanning/Howey, to design the new school and the JDHS renovations. The city is still negotiating a price.

Voters last October approved up to $2 million in bonds for the projects' design, without requiring any state funding. That amount is expected to take the design through the stage prior to construction documents by next May.

That design process will give project planners better estimates on construction costs, said architect Paul Voelckers. Having that level of design and better estimates will translate into a higher priority ranking from the state Department of Education on its school construction list, he said.

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