Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:05 PM on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

School district priorities not on governor's 2013 budget

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

A press release issued by the office of Governor Sean Parnell last week announced billions of dollars in his fiscal year 2013 budget for new school construction and major maintenance projects across the state. Not making the cut were Kenai Peninsula Borough School District projects submitted to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Elizabeth Nudelman, director of the department's office of school finance and facilities, said the priorities came from items submitted by each district.

"The criteria for the lists is in law for construction or major maintenance," said Nudelman. "The projects are prioritized based on the elements in the application, such as health and safety or unhoused students, etc."

Only two construction projects were chosen by Parnell: schools in Emmonak and Koliganek. The ranking of two KPBSD projects fell below Parnell's cut-off: repair and replacement of asphalt, ranked 17th; replacement of the Homer High School track, ranked 22nd.

From the state's list, Parnell selected the top 14 major maintenance projects, including such items as heating system upgrades, mechanical and electrical upgrades, roof replacements, school renovations, shower repairs, wood heat installation, sewer repairs and school siding replacement. Three KPBSD projects falling below those chosen by the governor were installation of school security systems, window replacements and locker replacements.

Dave Jones, KPBSD assistant superintendent, said it is "not a surprise" items from the peninsula were not selected "because, historically borough maintenance has done a very good job of maintaining our facilities." He credited the district's effort to address building needs for creating the "Catch-22 situation."

Each fall, Dave Spence, KPBSD planning and operations director, and borough maintenance personnel tour facilities to determine what needs will be included on the list submitted to the state. This year's priorities are based on last year's list, said Jones.

At its Dec. 8 meeting, the KPBSD board received Spence's year plan for the district for fiscal years 2013-2019. It included:

• Reroofing for Soldotna Elementary, Skyview High, Kaleidoscope Elementary, Soldotna Middle and Homer High schools;

• Window replacements for Soldotna Elementary, Paul Banks Elementary, Chapman, Ninilchik and Kenai Elementary schools;

• Homer High School track replacement;

• High school locker replacements;

• Districtwide security system installations;

• Asphalt repair and replacement at Paul Banks Elementary, Kenai Middle, Homer Middle, Soldotna Elementary and Kaleidoscope Elementary schools.

• Electronic upgrades in all borough school buildings;

• Chapman School boiler conversion from fuel oil to natural gas;

• Port Graham HVAC — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — upgrade;

• Flooring projects at Homer High, Nikolaevsk and Paul Banks Elementary schools;

• New housing for Nanwalek School's generator.

"We went into great discussion about what we might need to do to make sure we get some of our construction costs covered," said board member Liz Downing of Homer.

"It's really hard to compete with some of the very big projects that the state has. ... I can't remember the last time we got something. It's kind of discouraging actually," said board member Sunni Hilts of Seldovia.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.