Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/16/1996 08:07 AM House STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 546 - G.O. BONDS: SCHOOLS & UNIV. The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs Committee was HB 546. Number 0255 CHAIR JAMES explained HB 546 was scheduled today as a continuation of the subcommittee to share with everyone the changes. The subcommittee was addressing the equitability amongst the distribution of the money. There was also discussion surrounding general obligation bonds for locally owned school districts. It was discovered it had been done a number of times in Alaska before. The bonding capacity needed to be determined, however. It was indicated it could be $100 million per year. Therefore, this would need to be stretched out longer than five years. A handout titled, "FY 97 School District Capital Funding Allocations by Legislative District," was distributed to the committee members. She explained the total allocation per school district was calculated by multiplying the educational units generated by each district by $59,000. Number 0380 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked if the thrust of HB 546 was to try to balance the programs between the rural and urban areas. Number 0389 CHAIR JAMES replied, "that's correct." That was what the subcommittee was attempting to do. Number 0417 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER wondered why Mat-Su and Anchorage were combined in the same district. He was referring to the handout titled, "FY 97 School District Capital Funding Allocations by Legislative District." REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said Mat-Su had been asking that question for years now. Number 0429 CHAIR JAMES said it was possible to physically separate them on paper. It did not change the numbers, however. Number 0439 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER replied Mat-Su would not want any of its money distributed to Anchorage and vice versa. CHAIR JAMES reiterated a line could be drawn between the two on paper. It did not affect the numbers, however. Number 0480 CHAIR JAMES said she was concerned about Fairbanks and Denali because they were combined in the same district as well. The money allocated for Denali was not enough money for what was needed. The bill did not meet the needs of her district. Therefore, she was not that interested in the bill. That was going to be the typical response of many. She did not know how her district would get the money to fix the Tri-Valley School. There were not enough people in the district to pay for a new school. That was the typical problem for the rural areas. CHAIR JAMES called on the first witness via teleconference in Kenny Lake, Julie Knutson. CHAIR JAMES announced to Ms. Knutson that the amount allocated to her district in concern was $5,311,923 with a local match of $108,407. Number 0646 JULIE KNUTSON asked if that was for just Kenny Lake, or Kenny Lake and Glennallen? CHAIR JAMES replied that was for the Copper River regional education attendance area (REAA). MS. KNUTSON said Kenny Lake was in the same position as Anderson. She asked if the bill would benefit Anderson because of the 30 percent distribution match? Number 0688 CHAIR JAMES replied, "no." There was only a 2 percent distribution match for Copper River. She explained she was referring to the Denali area previously, not to the Anderson area. Number 0731 MS. KNUTSON said she was afraid Glennallen would end up with everything. Kenny Lake was not happy with the wording of the bill. She said Kenny Lake needed a new school desperately. The current building was falling apart and was becoming dangerous for the students. Number 0749 CHAIR JAMES replied the only way to divide the approximately $6 million around the state was through an application process to determine the priorities. That process had presented problems in the past, however. Some districts did not apply and there was concern surrounding the Department of Education's (DOE) evaluation process. Number 0798 MS. KNUTSON replied the Kenny Lake area wanted the legislature to know how badly it needed a new school. CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Knutson to define the school needs of Kenny Lake. Number 0820 MS. KNUTSON replied there were unhoused student, leaky faucets, an old furnace system, icing problems, and an old electrical system, to name a few. She cited a volunteer was electrocuted due to the electrical problems. CHAIR JAMES thanked Ms. Knutson for her testimony today. Number 0860 CHAIR JAMES announced she did not want to take any action today on HB 546. Her intention today was to inform the committee members the status of the subcommittee and to take any public testimony. CHAIR JAMES further explained the original bill considered the priority list of the Department of Education. She suggested returning to that list. Number 1130 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the problem with the list from the was that Anchorage was short changed. She understood it was a matter of shifting dollars which meant that some districts would get less money. Number 1156 CHAIR JAMES said the list from DOE reflected those districts that had applied. It was obvious that Anchorage did not apply for whatever reasons. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said Anchorage did not meet the established criteria. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN stated Mat-Su was robbed according to the list produced by DOE. CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Ogan if Mat-Su applied? REPRESENTATIVE OGAN replied, "he did not know for sure." He assumed it did. CHAIR JAMES replied if a school district was not included on the list, it had not applied. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN stated if Mat-Su had known this was going to be a bond issue, it would have applied. If the state was going to fund the schools then he agreed with the proposed approach. CHAIR JAMES suggested giving the school districts a period of time for the application process. It would behoove the legislature to establish the priorities as opposed to the distribution. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said that was a laudable goal, but it had never happened before. A distribution would not meet anybody's needs entirely. That fact needed to be accepted. Once that was accepted, it could then be said the money was distributed equitably. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON suggested considering the districts that had already presented a proposal at the top of the list, while all new applications would be prioritized. The subcommittee needed to research further why some districts did not send a request. CHAIR JAMES suggested re-opening an application period. She did not like the idea of putting the already existing proposals at the top of a list.