What others say: Bills would leave projects in limbo

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 2:57pm
  • Opinion

For four decades, the state has reimbursed local governments for a majority of the cost of school construction and major maintenance projects. The reimbursement of those voter-approved school bonds has never really been guaranteed, however. It’s just been the official policy to do so when the money is available.

And the money has been available.

So, voters in local school districts — Fairbanks among them — have grown accustomed to the state reimbursement during the many years of the program.

Now, with the state facing a budget shortfall that is expected to run in the billions of dollars annually for several years, that bond program is in jeopardy.

Two bills — Senate Bill 64 and its House Bill 138 — would suspend the program for five years and then bring it back at a reduced reimbursement rate. The program now reimburses local governments up to 70 percent of a school construction project funded through locally approved bonds. That rate would drop to 50 percent when the program returns after five years under the two bills.

It’s difficult to argue in this extraordinarily difficult fiscal time, brought on by declining oil production and a plummet in the price of that oil, that this program should be spared. Lots of programs are going to be reduced or eliminated.

What can be argued, though, is the scope of the projects affected by suspending the bond reimbursement is unfairly broad.

The clear example of this in the Fairbanks region is the lengthy, multi-year renovation of 55-year-old Barnette Magnet School, the oldest school in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Fairbanks voters previously approved bond packages for the first two phases.

It was hoped the final phase would be funded in full through the state’s capital projects list, but Barnette just missed the ranking cutoff. That led to discussion in Fairbanks about putting the final phase out as a bond proposal on the October ballot and obtaining the usual state reimbursement.

Appearance of the school bond reimbursement legislation complicates that thinking.

Would Fairbanks voters approve the bonds without the 70 percent state reimbursement, meaning that local property taxes would have to pay the full cost of that $12 million final phase?

Or would Fairbanks leaders decide to wait five years until the bond reimbursement program returns, albeit at a reduced level? Waiting that long for a project that has been underway for several years already and is nearing completion doesn’t make much sense.

A fair solution would be to exempt from the bond reimbursement suspension those programs like Barnette Magnet School that are underway or for which local voters already have authorized the issuance of bonds.

The savings to the state won’t be as much, of course, but allowing for such projects to proceed seems fair.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

March 24

More in Opinion

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Lisa Murkowski represents everyday Alaskans

While working for Lisa, I witnessed her considerable command of the issues