August 29, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 34

School improvements won't make fall ballot

Haines Borough voters won’t be deciding a $5 million bond for districtwide school improvements in the Oct. 1 election after all.

At its Aug. 13 meeting, the assembly voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone an ordinance for the ballot measure.

The postponement came at the request of borough manager Mark Earnest, who told assembly members the borough didn’t have time enough “to get the whole package before voters in a clean way.”

Before the vote, leaders wanted to be sure that the state Department of Education and Early Development would be paying as much as 70 percent of the bond’s debt payments. Earnest said the hang-up was a timing issue with getting DEED approval for bond debt reimbursement.

“(DEED) got swamped by proposals from Anchorage and Fairbanks and other school districts and wouldn’t be able to get to the Haines projects until after ballot language was printed,” Earnest said.

Earnest said the work to get the measure ready wasn’t wasted. “We made a lot of progress on all of these projects. The work can be rolled forward for the next (election) cycle.”

Mayor Stephanie Scott added: “Not only that, but the work being done can be put into other funding mechanisms.”

The bond would have financed six projects: mechanical upgrades to the vocational education building ($1.6 million); Mosquito Lake School air handling unit replacement ($346,500); high school air handling unit replacement ($362,300); Haines School roof repairs ($145,500); high school locker room; ($850,500) and pool locker room replacement ($1.6 million).

Assembly leaders were apprehensive about passage of the measure without ballot language indicating the state’s commitment to reimbursement.