Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/08/1994 03:00 PM House HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 47 - FUNDS TO UPGRADE MILITARY BASE SCHOOLS Number 641 DUANE GUILEY, Director, Division of School Finance, Department of Education, testified in support of HJR 47. He felt the resolution continued to bring to the forefront the problems associated with transferring on-base schools and the costs involved. However, he did state that the Department of Education (DOE) did not support HB 359 in that the bill calls for a direct appropriation of 50% of state share matched with 50% federal share for projects that have not been evaluated or ranked in the school construction priority process. He said the highest priority project for on-base schools is a replacement facility for Taylor and Pennell Elementary Schools on Eielson Air Force Base. The school district has applied for the transfer and received $600,000 last year for a planning grant. A capital project construction grant has been applied for by the school district this year. Mr. Guiley said the school has been evaluated and ranked, on a relative basis compared to state- wide need, as number 33 on the school construction list. He stated that an appropriation of $241 million would be needed to fund the construction needs that are ranked ahead of Eielson. Therefore, Mr. Guiley reiterated that the DOE does not support the proposed bill as written. He recommended that the projects be submitted through "the normal capital projects process as the Fairbanks North Star Borough has already done." Number 694 REP. TOOHEY asked what the status of the schools would be if indeed Ft. Richardson did eventually close. Number 701 CAPT. PORTER answered that the schools would be turned over to the local military and/or the state. Number 719 REP. G. DAVIS asked Mr. Guiley about the planning grants given to the North Star Borough. Number 728 MR. GUILEY said the North Star Borough School District has one of the best six-year capital improvement project planning processes. He continued on to describe the process involved in the planning process. Number 749 REP. G. DAVIS said he didn't want to see any planning grants duplicate some of the information within the task force recommendations and proposed legislation. Number 757 MR. GUILEY said the initial planning that Capt. Porter had mentioned was related to the upgrade of Taylor and Pennell. The district determined in their review that it would be in their best interest to build a new facility, then they could relinquish control of the two existing facilities and turn them back to the federal government. Number 773 REP. KOTT asked, as a variable, how important schools are in determining whether or not a military base should be closed. Number 785 LIEUTENANT GENERAL JOE RALSTON, Commander, Alaskan Command, (senior ranking military member in Alaska) United States Air Force, responded by saying that the Base Realignment and Closure Commission uses many variables when they evaluate a military base. They look at the location, training areas, housing and schools, among other factors. He said he could not forecast what the commission will do, but they will look carefully at on-base schools. If there are schools that have roofs that are about to collapse and other serious states of disrepair, those conditions have a bearing on their decision when they compare that base with another that perhaps has better schools on it. Number 818 REP. B. DAVIS told Mr. Guiley that she felt the North Star Borough situation was different from the situations being addressed within the proposed legislation. She said the nine schools still belong to the U.S. DOD and the capital grant process would not apply because the local school district would only allow the transfer if the upgrades had already been made. Number 869 MR. GUILEY said that his reference to the guidelines were referring to the capital projects funding process that is in existence for schools statewide. He said it would be the choice of the local school district of whether or not to take title to the proposed buildings. The only way the federal government would provide more money for the buildings would be if the district agreed to take title. Number 928 REP. B. DAVIS asked what type of proposal would satisfy the DOE. Number 934 MR. GUILEY suggested that the projects be applied for, be evaluated and placed on a prioritized list, and recognized on a statewide basis. He said the current list this year totals approximately $660 million of school construction statewide, citing that was just the first year of a six-year plan. He said the total for the six-year plan is over $2 billion of outstanding, unfunded capital improvement project requests. He asked that the applications be developed for the schools in the proposed legislation. Number 959 REP. B. DAVIS asserted that if that procedure were to be followed, the schools could be on the list "forever." She stated again that it was not reasonable to expect the nine schools to follow the same procedure. Number 977 REP. VEZEY asked how Alaskan standards compare to standards nationwide. Number 995 CAPT. PORTER stated that there are a number of schools in the same situation throughout the United States. He said "our schools probably fare somewhere in the middle-range of this. However, I can only take and look at Anchorage school districts, and if you were to rank the majority of the schools that we are talking about, they are in the Anchorage bowl area. And, if you take a look at what they've done...they've had an HSI study a few years ago (1992) and they took a look at all the schools, and all of our schools rank in their top ten worst schools that they have. And, I think that makes a statement, in itself, if you only apply that. And, they have the most schools of any school district in the state of Alaska, 72 or so, 55 of them being elementary." REP. VEZEY asked in what years the schools were built. CAPT. PORTER replied 1952-1960. REP. VEZEY said "the schools that we're comparing them with in Anchorage were all built in (the) 60's and mostly in the late 70's and beyond." Number 027 CAPT. PORTER agreed, but felt the schools being discussed did not have the programmed upgrades and normal maintenance that the other schools had. Number 032 REP. VEZEY said he could think of very few schools in the state that are over 30 years old, and the ones that did come to mind were on military bases. Number 043 CAPT. PORTER stated that "the number of schools that were this age... there is less than 10% of the schools that are in the state of Alaska...through that information we gathered at the task force level to find out exactly where we're sitting. Again, I'm not so worried about the age of the school as I am the programmed maintenance and upgrades that we've had over the years." Number 053 REP. VEZEY said that "a lot of those program upgrades and whatnot is due to the fact that the legislature has adopted new building standards which makes these older buildings obsolete." Number 056 CAPT. PORTER agreed that there had been a number of statutes addressing that issue. He felt that the main problem was, "who's responsible for it?" He said there is no capital improvement for on-base schools because the districts don't own them. Number 070 REP. TOOHEY asked, "is this unique to the United States... this snafu?" Number 073 CAPT. PORTER said it was not. Number 088 REP. G. DAVIS related the concern that all legislators have for their school district, hypothetically asking why his district hadn't been given priority. He reminded Capt. Porter that all legislators were facing the same problems and crisis situation in the state with educational facilities. Number 109 REP. MULDER restated that the situation was unique in that the school districts would not take over the on-base schools until they are brought up to code, and there was no funding mechanism in place to enable a transfer. He stated that school districts in other states were undertaking the financial responsibility of upgrading the schools and maintaining their military establishments because they realized the importance of military bases to their economy. Number 141 CHAIR BUNDE thanked everyone for their testimony and instructed the committee to take a brief at-ease. TAPE 94-10, SIDE B Number 000 CHAIR BUNDE reconvened the meeting at 3:45 p.m. and stated that Rep. Kott arrived at 3:04 p.m. Chair Bunde brought HB 84 to the table for discussion.