One of the ballot propositions Borough voters will decide on this fall is for a general obligation bond to pay for roof repairs and other upgrades around the Borough school district to the tune of $23 million.
Just three years ago, the Borough spent almost $17 million dollars on roof repairs through another bond issue, but as Mayor Mike Navarre explained at a recent meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce, there’s a lot more work to be done on the nearly 43 acres of roof space around the Borough. Because many of the buildings were built in phases over the course of decades, different sections of roofs need attention at different times.
“And didn’t we just fix Kenai Central High School last year or the year before? The reality is, we’re doing it in phases because the (expiration) of the useful lives for the roofs come up at different times. At KCHS, the roof on the original school was built in 1968. It expanded in 1978, and again in 1983,” Navarre said.
Aging and leaky structures drive up energy costs for the building, Navarre said. Wet insulation simply doesn’t work as well as clean dry stuff, so the savings should be substantial, though it’s hard to know exactly how much the Borough would save.
“All the new roofs will be installed with a 20 year warranty. And the estimated energy savings are $268,291, per year. That’s a fairly detailed estimate, based on a formula. We talked about whether or not we should round that, and the person who did the estimate said no, this is what the formula came up with. And if you round it, people say you’re just guessing. The reality is, we’re just guessing.”
If approved by voters, the $23 million dollar bond would be reimbursed by the state at 70 percent.
“I have to qualify that and say that the funds are subject to appropriation by the legislature, meaning they could cut the amount of the reimbursement. But in the history of bond debt reimbursement (which was as high as 90 percent), the legislature has, with the exception of one year, funded the bonds at the amount that was approved by voters,” Navarre said.
The bond package isn’t just for keeping students warm and dry. About eight percent of that $23 million would go toward a new turf field at Homer High School. That improvement would lower maintenance costs and extend playing seasons.
“The reason we decided to put this in there, quite honestly, is that I was having a conversation with the chairman of the Finance Committee, Bill Stoltze (R) – Chugiak, when were were trying to get funding for the Homer and Soldotna High School fields and he said in his district, they bonded for it. You should look at that because capital dollars are drying up,” Navarre said.
The Borough had tried to get money from the legislature for both Homer High and Soldotna High school turf fields, but only SoHi was funded through capital expenditures. Navarre says bonding for the Homer field makes sense, because it would allow other projects to be paid for out of the state’s capital fund. Voters will make the final decision on October 1st.