The Anchorage School Board on Monday decided to spend $10.55 million in savings to pay off bond debt and for the Mount Iliamna Elementary School relocation, new language arts curriculum and to take over a school in Eagle River used by the Anchorage superintendent's former district.
The largest chunk of money, about $5.6 million, went toward school bond debt reimbursement that Gov. Bill Walker vetoed last year.
"The alternative was to go back and collect that tax from the taxpayer," Anchorage superintendent Deena Paramo said in an interview Tuesday. "It was kind of an unfair deal, so the school district felt that this was a reason to use their emergency funds."
The rest of the $4.9 million will go toward four school district projects that School Board president Tam Agosti-Gisler described as top priorities. The district will use $2 million to outfit the four neighborhood elementary schools that will receive students from the closing Mount Iliamna, $500,000 for a new health clinic for eligible staff, $2 million for new language arts curriculum and $400,000 in costs associated with the Alaska Middle College School, which will enroll Anchorage students next school year.
"They're good for kids and secondarily they make fiscal sense," Agosti-Gisler said about the four projects in an interview Tuesday.
The Alaska Middle College School allows junior and senior high school students to earn college credits while also earning their diplomas. The school is located on the University of Alaska Anchorage Chugiak-Eagle River Campus and is currently a collaboration between UAA and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which Paramo led until last year. The Mat-Su district is planning to open a new middle college in the fall in Palmer, and the Anchorage School District will take over its spot in Eagle River, Paramo said.
Agosti-Gisler said the new curriculum will replace material that's about a dozen years old, and the proposed health clinic is a way to control health costs and provide health care to eligible staff. The Mount Iliamna transition funding will pay for new furniture, supplies, equipment and other building changes at the four elementary schools that in the fall will enroll students from Mount Iliamna, a closing school for students with behavioral and emotional needs.
Agosti-Gisler said some of available funds come from about a 1 percent difference between the school district's projected budget and its actual budget.
Under state law, the district can only carry over a savings of up to 10 percent of its total annual expenditures. The district projected that total would hit 10.7 percent by the end of the school year, according to the board memorandum.
With some of the money spent, it is now expected to total 9 percent.