Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/16/1993 03:00 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HB 83 - APPROP: SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION GRANT FUND                               
  Number 307                                                                   
  SERVICES IN THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, testified in Juneau                 
  answering questions on HB 82 and HB 83.  He briefly                          
  described the provisions of HB 82 and HB 83, establishing                    
  major maintenance and construction grant funds, requiring a                  
  local contribution based on the district's tax base.  (The                   
  Department of Education gave a detailed presentation on the                  
  bills to the committee on February 9, 1993, the minutes for                  
  which are on file in the committee room.)                                    
  Number 338                                                                   
  ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage,                    
  saying that the state of school construction and foundation                  
  funding of public schools had become the PTA's top statewide                 
  concern in 1993.  She said specific concerns included                        
  overcrowding and prioritization of life-safety-health                        
  issues, both addressed by HB 82.  If HB 82 were adequately                   
  funded, the PTA would support it, she said, but not if the                   
  current foundation formula priority list was not revised to                  
  address inequities.                                                          
  Number 370                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE asked if the Anchorage School District (ASD) had                 
  any specific suggestions concerning the priority list.                       
  MS. GILLESPIE mentioned the use of portable classrooms as                    
  one concern, as the structures are purchased and maintained                  
  through operating budgets.  She also noted the absence of                    
  fire sprinkler systems in all schools, though she                            
  acknowledged that not all schools had to be brought to the                   
  same standards.                                                              
  CHAIR BUNDE asked if there were ASD schools, other than                      
  O'Malley Elementary, which lacked fire sprinkler systems.                    
  MS. GILLESPIE answered that there were other schools that                    
  did not have fire sprinkler systems, and offered to send him                 
  the information.                                                             
  Number 379                                                                   
  testified via teleconference from Kenai in support of HB 82,                 
  if it were modified.  He suggested eliminating provisions                    
  for a five percent annual increase in a local district's                     
  local contribution for construction grants, but expressed                    
  support for the sliding scale for such contributions.  He                    
  suggested eliminating or modifying the elements in Section 5                 
  concerning criteria for grants, saying that the Kenai                        
  district's own prioritization of funding requests had not                    
  been followed by the Department of Education (DOE).                          
  CHAIR BUNDE asked a clarifying question about the Kenai                      
  school district's priorities for funding.                                    
  Number 303                                                                   
  MR. SWARNER stated that the district had prioritized its                     
  requests one way, but had seen the DOE change the order                      
  after receiving them.                                                        
  Number 412                                                                   
  REP. G. DAVIS asked whether all of Mr. Swarner's recommended                 
  changes were in a March 9 flier sent to the committee.                       
  MR. SWARNER said he had not sent the flier, and it might                     
  have come from the offices of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.                   
  REP. G. DAVIS asked whether the flier recommended deletion                   
  of page 2, section 3, lines 27-31, to eliminate the                          
  increases in the percentages of the required local                           
  contribution for state construction grants over three years.                 
  MR. SWARNER said yes.                                                        
  REP. G. DAVIS asked whether the flier recommended rewriting                  
  or eliminating page 4, section 5, so the DOE could start                     
  over with the priority process.                                              
  Number 428                                                                   
  MR. SWARNER said yes, and added that the local willingness                   
  to vote for bond issues for the local matching element of                    
  construction grants was an appropriate enough way to gauge                   
  local priorities.                                                            
  REP. G. DAVIS asked if he had recommended another change.                    
  MR. SWARNER said no, he had not.                                             
  Number 440                                                                   
  REP. G. DAVIS asked Mr. Bader his impression of Mr.                          
  Swarner's recommended amendments.                                            
  (Rep. Brice departed at 4:07 p.m.)                                           
  MR. BADER said, regarding the elimination of the sliding                     
  scale, that there was a possibility of having a fixed                        
  schedule, though he said the DOE would probably let the                      
  committee take the lead in proposing such changes, as they                   
  would require the smallest amount of matching funds.  He                     
  said the final match requirements should probably be larger                  
  than those set out in the first year of the sliding scale as                 
  set forth in HB 82.                                                          
  MR. BADER stated there had been much misunderstanding                        
  regarding the prioritization process.  He said the DOE was                   
  directed to place projects in categories, not rank them for                  
  funding according to those categories.  As a matter of                       
  policy, under the HB 37 process, the department has ranked                   
  the projects within the categories, then used the categories                 
  for ranking, too.  He said HB 82 directs that construction                   
  grants would fund health-life-safety projects, while                         
  protections of structures and code upgrades would be funded                  
  by a separate major maintenance fund.  He acknowledged that                  
  the DOE did not prioritize the same way as some local boards                 
  did, possibly because local boards considered some projects                  
  health-life-safety, while the DOE did not.                                   
  Number 490                                                                   
  REP. TOOHEY asked whether the DOE physically inspected all                   
  schools for which funding requests had been made.                            
  MR. BADER answered that the DOE tries to see as many                         
  projects as it can, but not all.                                             
  REP. TOOHEY asked whether the department ranked life-safety-                 
  health requests without physical inspections.                                
  Number 506                                                                   
  MR. BADER answered that the DOE could rank them without                      
  inspections.  While the DOE would like to make its own                       
  inspections, the rankings are based in large part on reports                 
  from engineers, fire marshals and other professionals.                       
  REP. TOOHEY asked the ranking of the (Anchorage) Service                     
  High School roof, which collapsed under a load of snow.                      
  Number 506                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY asked if the state was constructing schools with                  
  built-in life-safety problems.  He asked what was the source                 
  of such problems.                                                            
  MR. BADER said weathering and age cause most of such                         
  problems, and the state was not building flaws into schools.                 
  Aging, deterioration and lack of essential maintenance are                   
  the main causes of life-safety-health problems in schools,                   
  he said.  He also pointed out that changing building                         
  standards, such as the discovery that asbestos and lead were                 
  dangerous, were at the root of many life-health-safety                       
  Number 525                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY noted the tightening of building standards on                     
  lead plumbing in 1992.  He commented that if, as he had been                 
  told, school buildings were experiencing structural                          
  deterioration due to inadequate maintenance, then that was                   
  evidence of criminal negligence on someone's part.                           
  MR. BADER said the reasons for the deterioration vary.                       
  Number 540                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY commented that the tightening standards on                        
  asbestos, lead and fiberglass were having the effect of                      
  threatening to legislate the usefulness out of 20-year-old                   
  school buildings.                                                            
  MR. BADER pointed out that much of HB 82 dealt with                          
  maintenance.  He said $40 million was appropriated under the                 
  bill to maintenance grants, and $120 million to                              
  construction, but it was spent on almost as many maintenance                 
  projects as construction projects.  He pointed out the                       
  requirements in HB 82 for school districts to prove                          
  compliance with maintenance plans in order to receive any                    
  new grants.                                                                  
  Number 561                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE expressed sympathy with Rep. Vezey's expressions                 
  of frustration with poorly designed or built school                          
  structures.  He questioned whether all local school boards                   
  possess the proper level of expertise necessary to ensure                    
  that they construct good school buildings.                                   
  REP. OLBERG stated that the root of much of the problem with                 
  school construction in Alaska was the use of flat roofs.  He                 
  said he had told DOE Commissioner Jerry Covey that the state                 
  would save millions of dollars by insisting on peaked roofs                  
  for public buildings.  He said he would not support funding                  
  for state buildings unless they had peaked roofs.                            
  Number 576                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY stated he was not commenting about poor                           
  construction or design, but on the changing of building                      
  standards.  He said Mr. Bader had implied that adequate                      
  structures had deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.  He                  
  noted that many of the projects listed in HB 83 include                      
  roofs.  He said he did not have enough information to see                    
  why they were classified as life-health-safety projects.                     
  REP. BRICE concurred with Rep. Olberg, and said that the                     
  bill did not include requirements to establish design                        
  criteria for the construction of new school buildings that                   
  could help prevent either over or under-building of such                     
  TAPE 93-37, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 007                                                                   
  REP. OLBERG noted that nine of the projects outlined in                      
  HB 83 involved roofs, totalling $2.66 million, and said the                  
  state should have standard school designs.                                   
  REP. TOOHEY said she had suggested standardized school                       
  design and peaked roofs at an earlier committee meeting at                   
  which HB 82 was discussed.                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE expressed his desire that the committee could                    
  craft the bill and move it to the next committee.  As such,                  
  he invited amendments to the bill.                                           
  Number 030                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY said he had drafted a proposed amendment to                       
  HB 82.  He said he had had problems with HB 82.  One was the                 
  graduated scale for local contribution, as it would bring                    
  confusion to a voting public considering whether to approve                  
  bonds.  He expressed problems with REAAs funding only 1.4                    
  percent of their school projects.  He moved deletion of                      
  HB 82, section 3, paragraph C, an action that would include                  
  REAAs into the provisions of paragraphs A and B.  He                         
  expressed the need to define more carefully the term Average                 
  Daily Membership.  He also proposed changing the percentage                  
  to 20 percent from 5 percent on line 23; to 30 percent from                  
  15 percent on line 24; to 40 percent from 30 percent on line                 
  25; and to 50 percent from 40 percent on line 26.  He said                   
  the state needs to rely more on local input for school                       
  construction.  He cautioned the committee against setting                    
  design standards, an area in which they had little                           
  experience, and which could bog the bill down for a long                     
  time with no guaranteed beneficial result.                                   
  Number 097                                                                   
  MR. BADER said the DOE was establishing a committee to study                 
  the ranking process.  He said a letter from the commissioner                 
  to those participating in the committee included three                       
  points, including standards of construction and standards                    
  for what type of structures the state should pay to build.                   
  He expressed a preference for peaked roofs, but pointed out                  
  that large snow loads in Valdez make peaked roofs less                       
  attractive.  He said the DOE had invited three architects                    
  and engineers who had experience building schools, to the                    
  committee to study the process.                                              
  CHAIR BUNDE asked if the House Health, Education and Social                  
  Services Committee (H/HESS) was premature in considering                     
  HB 82 before the DOE had finished its work.                                  
  MR. BADER answered no, as the committee was concerning                       
  itself with issues that could be addressed by regulation.                    
  Number 140                                                                   
  REP. OLBERG suggested that inviting architects to join the                   
  committee was like enlisting foxes to gather the eggs.  He                   
  said architects had, in the past, been part of the problem,                  
  and that laymen can have fresh perspectives.                                 
  MR. BADER said the three architects would not be in the                      
  majority of the 15-member committee.                                         
  Number 151                                                                   
  REP. G. DAVIS stated he was glad to hear concerns about                      
  design standards, and said it was important for the state to                 
  impose some standards to prevent local communities from                      
  scrimping on proper design and construction methods.                         
  REP. OLBERG said standard designs might theoretically save                   
  up to 10 percent of building costs by avoiding the need for                  
  individual designs.                                                          
  Number 170                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY said that the Fairbanks North Star Borough School                 
  District had gone to a prototype design for elementary                       
  schools a few years ago.  While the district saved some on                   
  the building cost, and more for each succeeding building, he                 
  said the architectural fees per building remained the same.                  
  He stated architectural fees include substantial insurance                   
  packages for each structure.                                                 
  CHAIR BUNDE expressed frustration with an overly detailed                    
  discussion on the bill.  He suggested forming a subcommittee                 
  to hold a work session to work out detailed amendments on                    
  HB 82 to put before the board.  He asked Mr. Bader why                       
  passage of the bill would require an increase in                             
  administrative costs, as reflected in the DOE fiscal note.                   
  Number 219                                                                   
  MR. BADER said the local matching provision broke new                        
  ground, and it would take some administrative costs to make                  
  sure the school districts met the matching grant                             
  requirements.  He said the department will need to ensure                    
  that the maintenance plans are followed.  He called some of                  
  the fiscal note amounts modest relative to other matching                    
  grant bills.  He said there would be a need for some                         
  additional personnel to administer the $150 million worth of                 
  construction and maintenance work, while the DOE currently                   
  administers from $15 million to $25 million in grants per                    
  Number 243                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE said HB 82 and its expenditures would go through                 
  a fine sieve.  Seeing no one else wanting to testify on the                  
  bill, he closed public testimony.  He asked the committee                    
  members if there were elements in the bill they wanted to                    
  REP. VEZEY said he believed it was essential to retain the                   
  matching grant provision.                                                    
  CHAIR BUNDE expressed agreement with Rep. Vezey on that                      
  REP. G. DAVIS expressed agreement as well, but said he had                   
  empathy for Bush areas and REAAs, and hoped their concerns                   
  regarding the bill would be addressed.                                       
  CHAIR BUNDE appointed Rep. G. Davis to the subcommittee on                   
  the bill to address those concerns.                                          
  Number 267                                                                   
  REP. OLBERG noted that his district included two REAAs, and                  
  said that as Rep. Nicholia was not there to address Bush                     
  areas, he volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.                          
  CHAIR BUNDE named Reps. Brice, Olberg, G. Davis and Vezey to                 
  a subcommittee, with Rep. Vezey as chair, to develop                         
  amendments on HB 82 for the committee by the following week,                 
  in hopes of moving the bill from committee.  He said the                     
  rest of the committee was welcome to be involved in the                      
  subcommittee as well.                                                        
  Number 286                                                                   
  REP. B. DAVIS stated that local school districts should not                  
  be required to provide matching funds of more than 30                        
  percent.  She expressed opposition to a 50 percent match.                    
  REP. TOOHEY expressed agreement with Rep. B. Davis on                        
  matching fund levels.  Given unfunded federal mandates on                    
  education, she said, 50 percent matching fund requirements                   
  were unreasonable.                                                           
  Number 302                                                                   
  REP. VEZEY commented that he had proposed 50 percent                         
  matching for some of the state's school districts that had                   
  ratios of taxable property per student that were ten times                   
  those of Anchorage due to their base of wealth in fish or                    
  CHAIR BUNDE recommended saving arguments until consideration                 
  of actual amendments.  He also asked Rep. Vezey to share the                 
  amendments with Mr. Bader for his consideration.                             
  Number 317                                                                   
  REP. G. DAVIS asked that Mr. Bader be notified of the                        
  subcommittee's meeting.                                                      
  CHAIR BUNDE invited Mr. Bader to participate as a member of                  
  the subcommittee.  He then asked if the committee wanted to                  
  continue the meeting to address HB 83.                                       
  Number 325                                                                   
  Committee members said informally that, as HB 82 had been                    
  referred to a subcommittee, they would prefer to wait to                     
  consider HB 83.                                                              
  Number 330                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE indicated to committee staff a desire to have                    
  HB 82 considered again at the next available date the                        
  following week.  He asked Rep. Vezey to pick a date for his                  
  subcommittee meeting so the HESS Committee could hear HB 82                  
  once again in hopes of passing it to the next committee of                   
  REP. VEZEY said the committee would have something ready for                 
  discussion, though not a committee substitute, by Tuesday,                   
  March 23, 1993.                                                              
  Number 337                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE announced that HB 82 and HB 83 would come before                 
  the committee on Tuesday, and with luck, the bills could be                  
  passed out on that day.                                                      
  Number 341                                                                   
  REP. TOOHEY recommended also setting aside Thursday, March                   
  25 for further consideration, so that in any case the bills                  
  would not be held later than the end of the week.                            
  Seeing no further business before the committee, CHAIR BUNDE                 
  ADJOURNED the meeting at 4:44 p.m.                                           

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