Prop. 2: Unused bonds would help renovate schools

Funds would be split between accessibility upgrades, repairs at four elementary schools

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004

If local voters redirect $18 million in bonds that were sold to build a new high school, Juneau's elementary schools will be spruced up and many of the district's schools will be more accessible to people with disabilities.

Over time, broken windows have been replaced with plastic panels that have yellowed or been scratched. In some places, the carpet is worn and ripped, and could trip up students.

"Parents and teachers want our kids and families to take pride in our school ... that it looks nice," said Leah Ogoy, manager of the before-and after-school activity program RALLY and co-chairwoman of the PTA at Harborview. "It does need some repairs. It could use a repainting. I am very happy to hear that's going to be on the ballot."

The measure is Proposition No. 2 on the Oct. 5 ballot.

The $18 million is from bonds already sold, but not spent, for the originally proposed Dimond Park high school. On May 25, a slim majority of voters blocked that project.

Between June 2000 and October 2003, when planning was in full swing for the new high school, the city sold about $23 million in bonds for it. Only about $5 million of the proceeds were spent, leaving $18 million.

Now the Juneau School District, with the approval of the Juneau Assembly, wants to use the unspent $18 million to fix up some schools.

Voters who oppose the ballot proposition might simply want to save themselves some money.

If voters decide not to use the $18 million to renovate schools, the city would defease the bonds, Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said. Defeasing refers to investing the $18 million and using the interest to pay off the bonded debt.

That would spare taxpayers from paying off the bonds themselves, and it would leave the city with $18 million to use 14 years from now, presumably for an educational purpose approved by voters.

If voters redirect the bonds to renovate schools, the state would pay for 70 percent of the bonds' principal and interest, which totals about $24.5 million. The city estimates it will cost property taxpayers $18 per $100,000 of assessed value over 14 years to pay off the rest of the local debt.

About a third of the funds would go toward nonconstruction costs, such as design and the city's administration of the projects.

Of the $13.2 million for construction, $6.1 million would pay for accessibility upgrades at all schools except Juneau-Douglas High School, Floyd Dryden Middle School and Riverbend Elementary. Those three schools already meet or soon will meet federal requirements under separate renovations.

The remaining $7.1 million would renovate four elementary schools, the Marie Drake annex to JDHS, and the district's central office. The grade schools are the four oldest: Auke Bay, Gastineau, Glacier Valley and Harborview.

Elementary schools would get new windows, doors and floor coverings, and new paint on the walls. Harborview would get new exterior siding and a new roof.

The work related to improving accessibility would leave all of the district's schools in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Fred Wilson, the district's facilities and maintenance supervisor and ADA compliance officer.

It would include such work as installing accessible exterior doors, moving handicap parking spaces to better locations, and making classroom sinks reachable by people in wheelchairs.

Jeff Bush, former Juneau School Board member, said he originally opposed putting the proposition on the ballot. He was concerned that people might choose between constructing a second high school, Proposition No. 1, and Proposition No. 2, but not vote for both.

"When you ask people for money to fund schools, sometimes it's hard for people to vote for both at the same time," Bush said. "But now that the proposition is on the ballot, I would encourage people to support it. They are all important projects and many of them are overdue."

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