A bond package that will help fund a high school planned for the Mendenhall Valley was approved by Alaska voters Tuesday.
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The measure also will provide money for a University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries center at Juneau's Lena Point and University of Alaska Southeast classrooms in Sitka and Ketchikan.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 59 percent of voters statewide cast ballots in favor of the education bonds and 41 percent were opposed.
In Juneau, 71 percent of voters supported the measure and 29 percent were opposed.
Proposition C will allow the state to issue $236.8 million in bonds for rural public schools. The measure also will allow a separate school debt reimbursement program for projects approved from 1999 through 2005.
The debt program will reimburse Juneau for a minimum of 60 percent of the cost of a new high school, now estimated to cost about $60 million. In 1999, Juneau voters approved a $50 million high school, contingent on at least a 50 percent state reimbursement.
"We felt this is good for Juneau in many ways," said Juneau schools Superintendent Gary Bader.
Juneau School Board members are scheduled to review an updated design soon and will forward it to the Juneau Assembly, he said.
"It may require resubmitting it to the voters," Bader said. "We would anticipate a favorable response from the voters because the financial terms for property taxes should be no worse and perhaps even better than the original submission to the voters."
The bond package will provide $9 million for a $20 million UAF fisheries research center planned for Lena Point. The project is connected to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries center planned for Juneau, according to UAS Chancellor John Pugh.
"It's a very important piece for the fisheries program and the community to get this project moving and completed," he said. "We need an additional $9 million and a package is going to the (University of Alaska's) Board of Regents next week in Anchorage. We hope the Legislature will fund the additional $9 million to complete that capital project."
The bond package also includes classroom upgrades and renovations on the UAS Sitka and Ketchikan campuses, Pugh said.
The measure includes maintenance money for schools in Hoonah, Hydaburg, Skagway, Yakutat, Klukwan, Naukati Bay, Kake and Gustavus in Southeast. Akiak, Akiachak, Scammon Bay, Teller, Hooper Bay and Circle also would benefit.
"We have a lot of overcrowding in the schools of rural Alaska. By providing more space it will provide more opportunities for the children to learn," said Willie Kasayulie of Akiachak, a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit launched after the Legislature refused to provide money to upgrade rural schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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