By Lilly Milman

The borough assembly has approved spending $1.7 million in sales tax dollars to build a vocational education annex to the Skagway School.

The voc ed building will be constructed on the west side of the school gym, with space for students and adults to learn woodworking, metalworking, welding, automotive maintenance and repair.

Building a vocational skills annex in a working town is an investment in the future, Assemblymember Steve Burnham said June 20, when the assembly approved the project as part of Skagway’s fiscal year 2020 budget that starts July 1.

“Children who go to Skagway School could potentially learn a trade or the basics of a trade while they’re going to school, and it might give them a boost when they actually go to trade school, or they apply for a job at the railroad or a local rock-crushing plant or carpentry or what have you,” Burnham said.

“I think that if somehow the school failed to get funding for a vocational instructor, yeah, it would fall to the city. But it would be an obvious good investment … and I think the community would back that,” he said.

Along with the voc ed annex, an emergency generator will be added at the school campus.

Construction should be completed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2020, said Borough Clerk Emily Deach.

The borough’s fiscal 2020 budget includes about $4.5 million more for capital improvement projects than in 2019. The 2020 total comes to $10.57 million and includes school maintenance projects to remodel the science room and bathrooms, and to purchase a new range hood for the kitchen, as well as building upgrades to the recreational center. 

With potential cuts to state funding for local school districts, now may not be the right time to take on all of these expensive projects, Assemblymember Orion Hanson said June 20. The municipality should separate its wants from its needs regarding the vocational building, he said, though he acknowledged that the school maintenance projects are necessary. 

“It’s something I know that is discussed about trying to train people to be more apt for the workforce as they go forward,” Hanson said. “Believe me, I’m a carpenter. I’ve seen many times people who don’t know fractions when they read a tape measure. But I think that delving into this for another addition … it’s a want. I’m cautious that the state may not fund the school the way it has in the past and then this municipality will pick up the slack for that.” 

In past years, the state helped municipalities cover a portion of the cost of taking on debt for school construction and major renovation projects, but that funding stopped about three years ago.

In approving the municipal budget June 20, the assembly added $350,000 for additional Broadway Street sidewalk repairs north of 8th Avenue. The assembly removed from the budget  $100,000 to build a school track.  

Property tax rates will not change for fiscal 2020. Sales tax revenues, however, are expected to increase.

General fund revenue for 2020 is projected at $3,412,863, about $300,000 more than this year. Total expenditures were approved at $8,047,088, an increase over $7,235,912 in 2019. The total includes state and federal funds, in addition to municipal sales tax and property tax revenues.