My turn: We need to finish the school

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Members of the Juneau Board of Education have heard from people in our community who are concerned about Tuesday's bond election and the costs associated with Thunder Mountain High School. The tone in our community is "not another election on this high school."

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We share your concern and frustration. When the scaled-down school was planned in the summer of 2004 and the bond was passed in October 2004, we had no idea that the costs for construction would escalate to current levels. The escalating costs associated with the project are no different than what is being faced by other projects throughout the nation.

I believe, as do others in this community, that the Juneau Assembly took appropriate and swift action in identifying funds to award the base construction bid of $47 million last spring. More delays would have inevitably led to even higher costs.

Proposition 1 allows Juneau to access 70 percent reimbursement (the city's portion will be $3.3 million, or 30 percent of the $11.18 million in bonds) from the state to finish Thunder Mountain High School. This bond allows us to complete the auditorium and hold on to the community's much-needed cash reserves that have been committed from the city's budget reserve ($4.6 million). If Proposition 1 fails, we will spend 100 percent of the funds the Assembly committed last spring to award the construction bid ($7.5 million).

Propositions 2 and 3 also are important, for if they pass, we will have a completed track and field, and the necessary funds to purchase the needed equipment to teach our youth. These bonds also allow for 70 percent reimbursement from the state.

Presenting these bond propositions to the community for its support was the right and prudent thing to do. The board feels it is important to ensure that the school be completed and opened with all of the necessary components to educate our youth -our future employees and community leaders.

When you consider the overall cost to Juneau taxpayers, related to increases in property taxes, the effect will average approximately $12.50 a year over the next 15 years (based on a house value of $300,000). This figure is based on $1 for each $100,000 in assessed value for Proposition 1 (for more than 15 years) plus $4.70 for each $100,000 in assessed value for Proposition 2 (for more than 10 years). Proposition 3 will not effect property taxes.

I am appreciative of the Assembly for its foresight in mitigating further cost increases by not delaying this project. Juneau needs to finish the job and secure a brighter future for its youth. Please do not punish our students or make the job of successfully educating them more difficult. Vote yes on Propositions 1, 2 and 3.

• Bill Peters is president of the Juneau Board of Education.

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