School board hopes to use bonds for quake fixes
As the Anchorage School District takes stock of its damages from last month's 7.0 earthquake, the Anchorage School Board is hoping to help address its initial costs with funding from bonds.
At Monday night's Anchorage School board meeting, the 2019 bond proposal that was previously approved by the school board received a requested revision from the bond council.
The bond council examines all of the wording in bond proposals, and makes any corrections needed before they go in front of the municipality.
"On Monday they presented to us some leniency," said School Board President Starr Marsett. "That says basically, 'If you need this money for earthquake repairs, we can use it for that. If something needs to be fixed and we don't have the money for repairs, we have the flexibility to use that.'"
While the approval may give the School Board some peace of mind, it is far from a done deal. The bond proposal next must make its way to the Anchorage Assembly for approval. If it passes that vote, it will find itself on the April muni election ballot and be at the mercy of the voters.
"In this bond we actually put a lot of safety and security in it for our elementary schools that include cameras and locked entries," Marsett said. "We also have roof repairs and maintenance work included in there, $100,000 of which is designated for Eagle River Elementary and some other schools."
Eagle River Elementary and Gruening Middle schools are both red-tagged, meaning they are not safe to enter. Those students have since be rerouted to other schools this week.
"We have two schools and one that is probably not going to open back up," Marsett said. "I'm not sure how we are going to address that one. Gruening we should be able to open back up with some repairs, I hope."
Instead of repairing Eagle River Elementary, the school district may decide to use that money elsewhere.
"Right now we are reviewing our budget," Marsett said. "Our preliminary budget for next year and it is not certain yet, about a $10 million deficit. There are going to be costs we won't have the funds for."
On Monday night, the school district also decided to dip into its reserve fund.
" It's a reserve we keep for emergencies," Marsett said. "Part of it is to keep for our bond rating that we are required to do. In the past the board said they would not go below eight percent in that fund. We voted to raise that limit so that the district can spend $30 million out of that account for any immediate costs."
In the long term, the school district is looking anywhere between $25 and $50 million. The full scope of what the damage amounts to won't be known until after the holiday break.
There are some areas that we just sheetrocked in," Marsett said. "We didn't want our students to see the damage and be more traumatized. We have to go in and fix those, some of our lunchrooms. We just don't know the total impact moneywise."
The school district has insurance with a $100,000 deductible that will cover water and electrical damage. ASD officials are also keeping track of every expense to hand over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will cover 75 of any costs it decides to accept.
The district will have to pay a substantial amount out of pocket, the amount and funding of which remain to be seen.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.