ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — UPDATE: A proposal to increase funding by millions of dollars for earthquake-related school repairs is headed to the Anchorage Assembly, and the question on some Anchorage School Board minds is: Who will pay for the increase?
The proposal would add $4 million to the 2019 Bond Proposal; money going directly to Eagle River Elementary and Gruening Middle Schools.
The 2019 proposal passed Nov. 2018, designating just over $55 million for citywide improvements.
Board member Dave Donley proposed an amendment to the new bond proposition, changing the language to designate emergency federal or state reimbursements for the additional bond debt be used to cover the difference. His primary intent, he said, was to shift the added burden away from taxpayers.
"The new 59 number would be adding additional debt to the taxpayers,” Donley said. “I think it will give us a tool to say, 'But wait! We will fix that by doing a buyback provision when we get FEMA and state money."
Donley's amendment failed with a 5-2 margin, and the original proposition for the added $4 million did pass. It’s now in the Assembly’s hands to vote on whether to place it on the 2019 ballot.
ASD spokeswoman Catherine Essary said the bond difference would be paid by residents unless future boards make other provisions for paying it off. She said the district itself pays off more than $50 million each year in bond debt.
Schools in the Eagle River and Chugiak areas could see a boost in bond funding for earthquake-related damage.
The Anchorage School Board addressed a bond extension of $4 million at a special meeting Monday afternoon. The extra money would go directly to Eagle River Elementary and Gruening Middle Schools, “red tagged” as uninhabitable following damage from the earthquake.
The extension would bring the 2019 total bond proposition to $59.1 million.
The original bond proposal for 2019 included $55,113,000 for things like a district-wide building life extension, safety and security projects, seismic improvements and more.
But when the earthquake hit on Nov. 30, forcing ASD to close both schools and relocate students and staff to other schools in the area, it became apparent that ASD would need more flexibility in bond spending to address earthquake-related damages.
School Board President Starr Marsett says bond increases have passed before, and schools damaged by the quake need all the help they can get.
“I did go to the Assembly. I did express to them, they are very interested in increasing the bond based on everything they are hearing from the community," Marsett said. "So we’ve been able to work together on this.“
The resolution voted for on Monday is a formal expression to the Anchorage Assembly that the school district supports the bond increase.
Going forward, the school board will now deliver its vote to the Assembly, and if passed, the bond increase will appear on the April ballot.