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School Board OKs Asking Voters to Approve $27.7 Million in Bonds for Major Maintenance

Sara Tabbert

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board decided Monday to ask voters this fall to approve a $27.7 million bond package to pay for roof repairs and electrical upgrades to district facilities. The board also took one last look at next year’s $238 million district budget before considering final approval tonight.

The administration proposal passed unanimously by the school board Monday would ask borough voters to approve selling bonds to pay for nearly $27.7 million in repairs, including replacement of the roof at Ben Eielson High School and Woodriver Elementary and electrical-system upgrades for other facilities around the district.

“Then that would go over to the borough for their consideration,” Superintendent Karen Gaborik said Monday. She says the district’s projects would be included with others that borough officials plan ask voters to consider approving in the October municipal election.

Gaborik says the work on Woodriver Elementary would finally complete the renovation that’s been under there way on and off for several years now.

“This final phase includes the last demolition, making sure everything’s ADA-compliant, some structural upgrades – it’s that very last phase that we just haven’t quite been able to get at,” she said.

Also Monday, board members approved spending just over a half-million dollars to repair the roof over Lathrop High School’s gymnasium and locker rooms. The members then began reviewing the nearly $238 million budgetfor the coming school year.

Credit FNSB School District
FNSB School District Superintendent Karen Gaborik, left, and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Pearce.

District Chief Financial Officer Lisa Pearce says that’s about 1 percent lower than this year’s budget. But she says it’ll enable district officials to restore much of the funding the administration initially had proposed to cut.

“It brings a little over 8 million dollars,” Pearce said, “and that’s basically what we were cutting.”

Gaborik says the district got much that from some cost-cutting and higher-than-expected funding from the borough, state and federal governments.

“It’s good news,” she said. “We’re able to restore some of these cuts that were being considered. Elementary/districtwide art, the librarians. Activities funding was a huge conversation. So maintaining that at the status-quo level, I mean that’s all good news for kids.”

Gaborik says she’s especially glad to recommend funding for full-day kindergarten at nine more elementary schools. She says administrators had initially planned to recommend adding it at five more schools, but decided to use this year’s budget surplus to offer it to all nine that didn’t yet have it.  

“Given the additional revenues that we have and some of the savings, I think it’s a good move to do it now,” she said, “It’s good for your community – parents want it, teachers are very supportive – especially our first-grade teachers, who have been experiencing the results of full-day kindergarten.”

Next year’s district budget also calls for hiring enough teachers to keep class sizes from growing any larger.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.