Some questions are straightforward. Others have been the subject of much discussion and even controversy. Here's our take on the first three ballot propositions. Next week we'll take up the final two.
Proposition 1 -- School board representation
Voters will be asked to choose between two alternatives:
* Plan A, representing the status quo, which would continue the practice of a seven-member board elected at large by all borough voters;
* Plan B, which would change the system to a nine-person board consisting of members representing each of the nine borough assembly districts.
This proposition came about because of a perception that the central peninsula, where the majority of borough voters reside, wields greater influence in choosing school board members. By extension, some of the outlying areas of the borough -- Seward and Seldovia, most notably -- have felt unfairly represented.
Serving on the school board is a thankless job, at best. It takes extraordinary commitment and dedication to fulfill the very important duties of the job.
There is little to indicate that inequity exists in the present structure of the board. However, the perception that it does is dangerous.
Opponents of Plan B -- the school board and school district administration foremost among them -- say a districted board will result in a more political board whose members fight for their own turf rather than for the common good of all district students.
While such a shift in board mind-set is possible, we hardly agree that it is a given. And even if that is the end result, a majority of board votes will still be required for any policy change. This should effectively counter any self-interest that may arise. Additionally, we believe this worst-case scenario is still far preferable to the unhealthy perception that the seven-member at-large structure is unfair.
Most of all, though, a nine-member districted board will provide something conspicuously absent from the present structure -- direct accountability.
Change may be painful, but this is good, positive change that will benefit everyone. We recommend a vote for Plan B.
Proposition 2 -- General obligation bonds for solid waste disposal facilities
As the borough has grown, so has its accumulated garbage. The existing borough landfill in Soldotna is in need of expansion, and state and federal regulations mandate the installation of extensive environmental controls with any new or expanded landfill.
The proposition requests approval of a bond issuance in the amount of $12 million for a term of 10 years. The impact on annual tax levies will be $36.75 on $100,000 of assessed property value.
There is no choice here between expanding the landfill or not. The work must be done, and if the bond is rejected, funding will have to be found by other means.
This is a relatively painless way to take care of necessary business. Vote yes on Proposition 2.
Proposition 3 -- $14,700,000 General Obligation Bond for Seward Middle School
Seward Middle School was built in 1968. It is now in need of upgrade to be compliant with the building code. Cost estimates come in at $10.7 million and are said to extend the building's life expectancy for 10 years.
A new facility is estimated to cost no more than $14.7 million and have a life expectancy of 30 to 50 years, while also being more efficient to operate than the existing building.
Bottom line: $4 million dollars buys 20 to 40 extra years and increased operating efficiency. The cost to taxpayers is $11.67 per $100,000 of assessed property value over the 20-year term of the bond.
The numbers definitely add up. Vote yes on Proposition 3.