State notifies Bristol Bay Borough District it won't reimburse bonds for school improvement

Sep 9, 2015

After state budget cuts this spring, the state retroactively decided not to reimburse voter-approved bonds for necessary school upgrades in Naknek. 

In April Bristol Bay Borough voters had approved a proposal for a $14-million dollar bond to pay to bring the school up to code and make it more energy efficient.

But state budget cuts have halted those plans. Last month the state Department of Education notified the Bristol Bay Borough School District it would not reimburse debt from school bonds approved after January 1 of this year.

"That retroactive moratorium really put the kibash on the project," says Hill. 

District superintendent Bill Hill says it was frustrating to learn of the moratorium after the district had put time and resources into planning the school improvements. 

"You know, it’s not an easy process to go through," said Hill. "We hired a firm to do design and development, the borough spent hundreds of thousands of dollars getting us to a 35% design on the project. We expended a lot of personnel time. We involved our community in planning the project. There was a lot of effort in this."

The school has many systems overdue for repair or replacement – Hill says the windows, doors, lights, fans, heating, and roofing all need improvements

Hill says the borough's less than a thousand taxpayers can't bear the burden of these projects alone, so the district will have to keep looking outside for funding to make those upgrades.

"We are applying to the state’s capital improvement projects list, the major maintenance list," said Hill. "The chances we'll get that funding are probably slim as well, but that’s our first stab.  And after that, we’re not 100% sure where we’ll go. There's a possibility the Borough could fund some smaller portions on a piece-by-piece basis."

The only other new applicant to the debt reimbursement program was the Anchorage School District, which also had school bonds approved by voters in April. The Alaska Dispatch News is reporting that district plans to ask the state to reconsider its stance on the moratorium.

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org.