Borough, school district finalizing $65M bond package

The way forward for the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s growing older college infrastructure might find yourself within the fingers of borough voters this fall. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education earlier this month gave their stamp of approval to a $65.5 million bond bundle that may handle capital initiatives at college websites all through the district.

That bond proposal, which should even be permitted by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly earlier than it could seem on the Oct. 4 poll, would pay for a number of the college district’s greatest capital priorities, from highschool tracks to new roofs.

Efforts to fund upkeep and repairs at college district services have been years within the making. The district final fall recognized $420 million price of upkeep, together with $166 million price of “critical needs.” Many of the initiatives characterize deferred upkeep, or initiatives which were delay.

It’s been seven years since borough voters final permitted a bond bundle for college upkeep; subsequent bonds had been soundly defeated. Bond packages proposed in 2020 and 2021 had been delayed as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to KPBSD Director of Planning and Operations Kevin Lyon — who has lengthy led efforts to sort out the district’s deferred upkeep initiatives — there are just a few causes it’s time for a bond bundle collectively. Close collaboration between the college district and the borough — which owns district buildings — has meant some work is already underway.

Lyon stated the borough has labored since final summer season to sort out a number of the district’s smaller, cheaper initiatives, akin to college boilers, that are used for temperature management, and failing home windows — like people who fog up between panes. Work on these smaller initiatives, Lyon stated, is underway at all the district’s 42 faculties.

“Every single building is getting improvements on those things,” Lyon stated. “Whether it be in Seward, or whether it be in Homer or Anchor Point, they’re working in all of our buildings regularly.”

Picking which initiatives find yourself within the bond bundle, Lyon stated, isn’t straightforward due to how a lot work must be completed. Something voters from throughout the borough ought to bear in mind, nonetheless, is that getting large initiatives completed frees up cash, time and labor that can be utilized to sort out what’s left over, that means initiatives that aren’t within the bond bundle.

“It is very hard with all the needs that are there to go through and choose,” Lyon stated. “ … The bigger picture is taking some of these big items off the list frees up the funding we have at the borough to go and take care of other issues.”

An inflow of oil cash to the State of Alaska means the Legislature is healthier positioned to place cash into college districts across the state. Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced earlier this yr that the state is projecting a $3.6 billion income surplus this yr as a consequence of spiking oil costs within the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lyon stated the district is protecting its eye on how the Legislature acts — the state of Alaska is the largest contributor to the college district’s annual price range. On prime of that, there are two methods the state can fund college upkeep initiatives on the Kenai Peninsula.

The first is thru a grant program. That program is at the moment energetic and awards cash primarily based on how aggressive a venture is. In evaluating whether or not or not a venture is aggressive, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development considers 10 standards and awards factors relying the place the venture falls.

For instance, one of many issues the state considers is how previous a facility is. Buildings between 10 and 20 years previous get half a degree per yr in extra of 10 years, whereas buildings older than 40 years mechanically get 30 factors for that class. The extra factors a venture will get, the extra possible it’s to get funded via the state’s grant program.

Even if a venture is excessive sufficient on the record to obtain funding, the state received’t foot the entire invoice. Under the grant program the state pays for 65% of the whole venture. In the case of the Kenai Peninsula, the borough has to give you the opposite 35%, as a result of all KPBSD services belong to the borough.

The borough was awarded cash via the state’s grant program, for instance, to pay for the development of a brand new college within the distant neighborhood of Kachemak Selo, on the head of Kachemak Bay. Borough voters beforehand defeated bond packages that included funding for the college, which serves 31 college students.

Another approach to get the state to pay for a venture, nonetheless, is Alaska’s college bond debt reimbursement. That program has been closed since 2015, however a invoice at the moment earlier than the Legislature — House Bill 350 — would open it again up.

As its identify suggests, this system makes use of state cash to pay for a part of the bonds a borough sells to fund initiatives. Like the grant program, the bond debt reimbursement program splits the whole venture value between the state and the borough. Contingent on legislative approval, the state pays 70% of the bond cost for “eligible space” initiatives and 60% for area not thought-about eligible area.

Eligible area is a sq. footage quantity tied to a faculty’s enrollment. Space that isn’t eligible refers to any initiatives or enlargement that exceeds the sq. footage calculated per scholar.

As the Legislature mulls one of the best ways to fund college initiatives, analysis printed final yr finds that the state is already not funding college initiatives on the price it needs to be.

A March 2021 examine out of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research discovered that the State of Alaska “is not spending what is needed to maintain, renovate, and renew its K-12 school buildings.” Authored by ISER analysis professor Ben Loeffler, the examine discovered that Alaska has traditionally spent about 80% of what it needs to be spending on annual college property maintenance.

Loeffler wrote that the trade commonplace for annual college property maintenance is 4% of the present alternative worth — that quantities to $374 million yearly in Alaska. The state’s annual capital spending between 2000 and 2014, nonetheless, averaged $300 million, Loeffler wrote.

The common is even decrease during the last six years, Loeffler wrote, noting that “K-12 capital spending fell dramatically after (Alaska’s) fiscal crisis.” The state’s annual capital spending during the last six years averaged $124 million — about 33% of the advisable annual funding, Loeffler discovered.

Regardless of the place the state lands on college capital funding, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the college district are shifting ahead with the bond proposal. The bond bundle that would find yourself earlier than borough voters this fall describes $65.55 million price of initiatives.

The most costly venture on the record is the reconstruction of Soldotna Elementary School, which is estimated to value round $21.5 million. The second most costly venture is the repurpose of the Soldotna Prep School constructing, which is predicted to value round $18.5 million.

As a part of the Soldotna Prep School initiatives, KPBSD’s district workplace, River City Academy, Soldotna Montessori and Connections Homeschool would all be relocated to the prep constructing, which is at the moment sitting vacant and which prices the Kenai Peninsula Borough $300,000 yearly to keep up, in keeping with an outline of the bond bundle ready for college board members.

“That’s a big project, but it’s going to save us a lot of operating costs, it’s going to give the facility new life (and) it’s going to be better for the kids,” Lyon stated of the venture.

Other initiatives within the proposed bond bundle embrace $5 million work to broaden the effectivity of the district’s automotive upkeep store, $4.8 million price of steel roof replacements at Nikiski North Star Elementary, Mountain View and Hope faculties and $5.5 million for scholar drop-off services at Chapman, Homer Middle, Kenai Middle and Mountain View Elementary faculties.

Also included within the proposed bundle is $500,000 for the development of latest concession and restroom services for Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School. The college has been working to crowdsource $250,000 wanted for the venture since February, citing the excessive value of seasonal port-a-potty leases and lack of accessible district funds.

Improvements to the entrance entrance at Homer High School, security and safety renovation at Kenai Middle School and the set up of turf fields at Seward and Nikiski excessive faculties are additionally described within the proposal.

The estimated value to borough taxpayers can be about $45 for each $100,000 taxed if H.B. 350 doesn’t go and about $25 for each $100,000 taxed if H.B. 350 does go. That’s per Kenai Peninsula Borough Purchasing and Contracting Director John Hedges, who has been working with Lyon on college upkeep points on the borough aspect.

Though the fee estimates usually are not last, Hedges instructed KPBSD board of training members on May 2 that H.B. 350, if handed, would reliably reduce these estimates in half.

Lyon has voiced up to now the necessity for a bond bundle that’s “just right.” He stated that no group of initiatives will make everybody completely happy, however that voters ought to bear in mind passage of the bundle stands to profit all faculties within the borough by caring for large, costly initiatives.

The bond bundle has already been permitted by the KPBSD Board of Education. Before it finally ends up on ballots this October, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly additionally wants to offer its thumbs-up. Lyon stated he’s hopeful that the meeting will give their approval as a result of the record of initiatives is the product of collaboration between the borough and the district.

More details about the proposed bond bundle might be discovered on BoardDocs, the district’s digital repository for paperwork.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

Soldotna Elementary School on Friday, May 13, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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