The removal of $11 million from the Senate's capital budget is another disappointment for the Bristol Bay Borough School District, after the state decided not to reimburse a voter-approved school bond last year.
When the Alaska Senate passed its version capital budget on May 14, it scrapped a major maintenance grant of about $11 million dollars for the Bristol Bay Borough School District.
The money would have paid for major energy efficiency renovations at Naknek’s K-12 school. According to Superintendent Bill Hill, many major systems are overdue for improvements, including windows, doors, lights, fans, heating, and roofing.
Hill says the district has been trying to fund the upgrades since 2012. Last year, Borough voters approved a school bond for the project, but then the state education department put a retroactive hold on school bond reimbursement. So, the district looked next to the state’s major maintenance grant program.
"So we put together a very competitive proposal for the major maintenance list, and it scored very high, we were number 3 on that list," says Hill. "The Governor had us in his budget, but we’ve been cut out of that budget, and at this point it doesn’t look very likely we’ll be put back in."
Though this particular funding source seems to be off the table for now, Hill says the district can’t keep putting off the renovations much longer. The heat and lighting costs have gotten too high, at over $1000 dollars a day.
"Or, if you want to put it in another sort of perspective, that’s about 4 ½ teachers a year," says Hill. "So it’s just become one of those albatrosses that we’ve got to figure out how to handle. Because without managing the cost of energy, we’re not going to be able to serve our students the way we want to."
The district plans to start chipping away, piecemeal, at some of the upgrades, with help from the Bristol Bay Borough. But Hill says that will be slower and more expensive than doing a complete project.