Juneau school board considers options for funding roof repairs

Local education officials are applying for state money to replace and repair leaky roofs at several Juneau schools. About $5 million is coming in over the next five years earmarked for school maintenance from sales tax money that voters approved in the Oct. 3 election.

Tuesday night, the Juneau School Board will vote on a capital improvement plan.

The state’s budget situation means there’s less money for things like facilities maintenance, and in 2015 the state Legislature froze a program that forgave school maintenance and construction bond debt. That means there’s plenty of maintenance that’s been put off in Juneau schools.

The six-year capital improvement plan is a project list. And it’s the first of many steps toward actually replacing roofs.

“So what the board has to do is approve a list to submit to the state, then the school district is eligible to submit grant applications to the state and if a grant application were to be approved, then it would be a shared expenditure with the state Department of Education paying 65 percent and the city paying 35 percent,” said Juneau School District Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett.

The highest priority projects on the capital improvement plan are roof repairs: an estimated $2.4 million for Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, $1.4 million at both Gastineau and Riverbend elementaries and another $500,000 for Juneau-Douglas High School.

Director of Administrative Services David Means said the district has taken a new approach to its maintenance.

“Because of the change in state funding, we’re trying to look at a different way to approach improvements on our facilities,” he said. “For many years, it was most beneficial for us to ask the voters to approve a bond and get paid 70 percent on a bond. And that was the most advantageous and that’s how we’ve done it for a long time. But with the suspension of bond payments we’re looking at grant applications on this.”

Means said the chances of getting state grants are low.

“Last year, I think Department of Education, I think, approved one grant application for the whole state,” Means said. “That’s because of the state’s financial situation, the Legislature didn’t approve money for anything else.”

The Juneau School Board’s Facilities Committee will work on a list of maintenance projects specifically for sales tax money at its Nov. 3 meeting. That $5 million is about 10 percent of what’s expected to be raised over the next five years through the extension of the sales tax.

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