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Anchorage School Board approves $50.7M bond package for April ballot

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: November 29, 2017
  • Published November 22, 2017

The Anchorage School Board on Monday approved a $50.7 million bond package for voters to consider on next year's municipal ballot, pending approval by the Anchorage Assembly.

The board approved the package in a 6-1 vote, with only board member Bettye Davis dissenting.

The largest chunk of the money, roughly $33 million, would pay for roof replacements at five schools, according to the district. The bonds would also pay for a fire suppression system at Abbott Loop Elementary School and safety improvements at East High, among other projects.

The Anchorage School District administration initially proposed a nearly $56.3 million price tag for capital projects. But in a 4-3 vote, the School Board trimmed the total by 10 percent.

"Though there's several explanations from the administration about the administrative overhead totals, in looking at the percentages that I was provided it just seems like it's excessive," said board member Dave Donley, who introduced the cut. "It ended up being around 45 percent."

Tom Roth, district chief operating officer, said in a later interview that the overhead included employees' salaries. He said the project cost estimates are based on formulas, and he didn't expect the 10 percent cut to affect the scope of the projects. "Where the potential risk is, is in the contingency costs," he said.

Board members Davis, Tam Agosti-Gisler and Starr Marsett cast the dissenting votes on the 10 percent cut.

For Anchorage property tax payers, the $50.7 million package would cost $11.37 for every $100,000 of assessed property. But since the school district is simultaneously paying off debt, the expected net increase to taxes would be less — $5.44 per $100,000 of assessed property, according to the district.

The Anchorage Assembly still must approve the school bond package before it heads to the April municipal ballot.

Meanwhile, the school district has hired a Colorado-based consultant, Western Demographics, to study utilization rates at Anchorage schools, including looking at whether school consolidation makes sense and whether the district should build new schools instead of bonding each year to maintain old ones.

Shannon Bingham, president of Western Demographics, told the board Monday that he expected to finish the utilization report by March.

The district has also tasked him with studying school start times and, if changes are needed, to help implement them. Bingham said he would start with research, then hold community meetings. He said the process could take 14 to 18 months.

According to contract documents, the district will pay Western Demographics $96,345 for the work. If the district decides to adjust start times, Bingham suggested in the documents that implementation start in fall 2019.

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