Finish the job, keep the change

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2007

On Tuesday, Juneau voters will vote on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 to decide whether to finish the school's auditorium - or leave it as an empty, locked shell; whether to have a sports field at the school; and whether to properly equip the school with things such as computers, books, equipment, musical instruments and wrestling mats.

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You probably already heard the reasons for the vote: The original bids for the project came in higher than expected due to rapidly rising worldwide construction costs. What you might not know is that a yes vote on these propositions will actually save money for the citizens of Juneau. This is why.

The state of Alaska provides matching funds for school construction projects that have been approved by voters through a local bond election. In the case of Thunder Mountain High School, the state has approved paying 70 percent of all bonded building. Juneau passed the bond proposition to build the school in 2004, and the state is paying 70 percent of the total amount approved in that election.

Unfortunately, by the time the construction bids were opened, the lowest bid was $11.2 million more than the amount in the approved bonds, even after cutting out the auditorium and the field and track. The Juneau Assembly therefore committed to pay the shortfall from the city's sales tax and reserve, rainy day account, money to accept the bid and build the school. This additional amount was not eligible for the state 70 percent match, because it was not approved by voters in a bond election. Nevertheless, a yes vote on the propositions Tuesday will qualify Juneau to receive the 70 percent reimbursement.

If the propositions pass, the total local dollars paid by Juneau will actually go down, from $27.5 million to $25 million. And Juneau will have a 500 seat auditorium, turf field and running track, adequate furniture and equipment for Thunder Mountain School. That's because the state will reimburse 70 percent of the sales tax and rainy day account funds already committed.

A yes vote will mean the citizens of Juneau will get a school fully ready for occupancy on day one, a new sports field and performing arts venue for all of us to use and enjoy and put money back into our rainy day account.

Lisa Worl


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