Juneau voters OK school bonds

Propositions provide additional funding for track, auditorium, field and furnishings

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yes, yes and yes. All three propositions to fund an auditorium, track and field, and equipment for Thunder Mountain High School won voter approval in preliminary election results Tuesday.

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"This is it. This completes Thunder Mountain High School," said School Board President Bill Peters, who was among the small crowd of bond supporters gathered at Election Central.

"I appreciate the community support," School Board member Mary Becker said.

Proposition 1, issuing $11.2 million in bonds to finish a planned auditorium, passed with 47 percent in favor of it and 31 percent opposed, according to early results.

Proposition 2, calling for $5 million in bonds for a new track and artificial turf field, was approved with 39 percent for it and 38 percent against it.

Proposition 3, which provided an additional $920,000 to furnish the school with desks, computers and educational equipment, passed with 48 percent in favor of it and 30 percent opposed.

When the $60 million high school opens in August 2008, students will enter a fully furnished school with a track and athletic field. The district expects the state to pick up 70 percent of the $17.1 million tab for the items approved Tuesday.

The voters of Juneau will not see another bond issue before the completion of the high school, Peters said.

Though voters passed the additional $11.2 million to finish the auditorium, district Superintendent Peggy Cowan said it's too soon to tell if it will be completely finished at that price.

"We're not sure that it will be complete," she said.

It remains to be seen if the auditorium will go back out for bid or the existing bid will reign. Cowan agreed that no more bonds will be sought regardless. If more than budgeted, some components of the auditorium could be removed, she said.

Proposition 2 saw the tightest race with seven precincts voting no on the $5 million athletic field and track.

With 862 absentee ballots still to be counted, only 49 votes keep the track alive.

"I'll take 49 votes," Becker said.

For the balance to change, the absentee ballots would have to come in differently than they normally do, she said.

Cowan was surprised to see that the results of Proposition 2 varied so much from Propositions 1 and 3.

"This community is sports-heavy," she said.

In the Salmon Creek Precinct, Anitra Waldo declined to say how she voted but said that she thought the bond issues were "under discussed" in all public forums throughout the city - "even way back when the funds were committed."

Overall voter turnout was at 21 percent, according to the City Clerk Laurie Sica.

Poll worker Elaine Beedle, at the Juneau Airport Precinct where turnout was near 10 percent, said it was the lowest of any election in her 40 years on the polls.

"It might jump to 13 percent by 8 p.m.," she said.

Shywaynda Royal, an employee in the Nugget Mall, said she had just learned of the election, but intended to vote yes on all three propositions during her lunch break.

"I like more money for schools," Royal said.

Shane Young voted yes for all three propositions in the Mendenhall Valley Fourth Precinct.

"It's worth spending the money on," he said. "We need another high school."

Young graduated from JDHS in 1992, and he said the school was crowded then and even more so when his sister graduated six years later.

Voters who came out against the proposition Tuesday consistently declined to be named or interviewed on the record.

Discussion of the special election in Juneau's No. 2 Precinct was fairly light, according to voter Peter Ford. He said one primary subject made it to the table - "all the herky jerky nonsense over the last 10 years." Ford said people spoke of a perceived manipulation by the school district and city about the new high school.

Voters turned down a $60 million school in 2004 and asked the district to build it on a smaller scale. In the end they got a smaller school that still cost $60 million.

"We're still going to have a great school," Becker said.

Ford believes that Juneau should do what it can to get the money back from the state. Ford voted for the propositions because he said if the city is going to build a new school, it ought to be complete.

"A library is not a library without books," he said. "It seems silly not to vote for it."

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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