The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District wants to fix the aging roofs around the district by asking voters to decide on approving a bond for the first phase of repairs this October.
"If everything goes well we would like to put it in front of the voters this fall," said Dave Spence, the district's director of planning and operations.
At Monday night's board of education meeting, members unanimously approved a school building roof repair bond issue, an action that spurs the process of getting the tens of millions of dollar question on the ballot this year.
Spence said the district contracted with Klauder and Company Architects to prioritize the roof needs of 18 buildings.
Some of the buildings that need repairs were built in the 1980s during a period of rapid growth on the Peninsula. They are now reaching the end of their effective lives. Some others built later need repairs to specific roof sections.
Spence said the extent of needed repairs would cover some 350,000 square feet of roofs each, out of the 1.1 million square feet of roofing in the district.
Spence said the roof repairs are a serious life safety issue and continued deferred maintenance of them could potentially close the schools.
The proposed bond issues are divided into two phases -- the first to go to voters this year and the second to be decided on in a later election.
Phase I for this year's ballot will be for about $15 million, Spence said.
Buildings in the first phase include K-Beach Elementary, Soldotna High, Kenai Central, Ninilchik, Nikiski Middle/High, Seward Elementary, Chapman, Homer Middle, Kenai Elementary and McNeil Canyon Elementary schools and a district warehouse.
The second phase would repair roofs on Soldotna Elementary, Paul Banks Elementary, Seward High, Skyview High, Homer High, Soldotna Middle and Susan B. English schools.
Phase II, which would be put up to vote once a substantial amount of the first phase is complete, is estimated at some $11 million.
"It's a little bit less than what we originally thought," Spence said, but, the district is "still looking in the neighborhood of $26 to $27 million."
Earlier this year the district was looking at a $26 million bond issue to be on the ballot this October to cover all the roof repairs. The original large amount was proposed to take advantage of a state program that would reimburse the borough for 70 percent of the yearly bond payments and was supposed to sunset this November.
But "the state legislature renewed that 70/30 debt reimbursement," Spence said. That extension allowed the board to divide the sum for bond consideration in separate elections and not worry about an impending sunset clause.
"That way it's not presented as a huge package to voters all at once," adding that it also helps for construction because "there's only the capability to do so much here locally."
District superintendent Steve Atwater said that the current school bond indebtedness ends this year. That means if voters were to support the new bond for roof repairs it would not affect the current budget indebtedness.
"To incur new debt would be a continuation of what they're already doing," he said. "The borough won't have to dig deeper into the public's pockets."
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly needs to approve the bond issue before it goes to the state for initial approval. Only then can the district craft the bond language for the ballot, he said.
The bond proposition needs to be filed with the state Division of Elections by August to be on the ballot for this year's election.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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