In April 2022, Anchorage voters rejected school bonds including $31 million to build a new Inlet View Elementary school. Post election surveys indicated opposition to building a new school may have been the margin of bonds’ defeat. At the May 23 Anchorage School Board meeting, it was announced that allocating $26 million for building a new Inlet View School will be proposed at the June 6 meeting. Apparently, the plan is to have the needed additional funding appear on the 2024 school bonds, making the amount to be voted on more acceptable to voters.
This proposal may come as an amendment adding more spending to ASD Memorandum No. 151, already proposing to spend $19 million on other school capital projects. This comes at a time when, over the past six years, the ASD student population has dropped from almost 50,000 to this year’s less than 43,000, and the ASD administration proposed closing six schools last year.
The source of these funds is through 2022 one-time school bond debt reimbursement received from the state of Alaska and Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement received for earthquake repairs. These one-time funds are available by a majority vote of board members to use for either operating or capital purposes. At the May 23 meeting, some board members, including myself, expressed concern with this proposal. Given the ASD’s projected $90 million budget gap for the 2024-25 budget, spending these one-time funds now will remove a potential tool for dealing with that deficit, potentially forcing higher class sizes and cuts to educational programs highly valued by the community.
Typically, such spending proposals appear on the non-action agenda at the meeting before when a vote is scheduled. In this case, as a possible amendment to Memo No. 151, no such notice is provided. Unlike when the annual budget vote takes place, such a major expenditure is not typically expected at this time of year. I requested that such an important decision be fully noticed and clearly appear on a meeting agenda prior to a vote on it. I argued that given the great amount of money and that voters had previously rejected this expenditure, it should have greater public notice. That request was opposed by some and probably will not happen.
Inlet View is a great school, and its parents are a great example of how parents can be effective advocates for their students. For years, I have supported a major remodel project at Inlet View to address existing needs — but not tearing down and rebuilding at a different location. Voters deserve better notice of such a huge spending proposal.
Dave Donley is a member of the Anchorage School Board, a deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration and a former Alaska legislator. This communication is from Dave Donley as an individual and not on behalf of the Anchorage School District or School Board.
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