Sean Murphy: Eagle River exit, creating Chugach Regional Borough and the new school district

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By SEAN MURPHY

This is the first part of our series of articles to describe an education model option for the new Chugach Regional Borough.

Our goal is to first protect the future of the children of our community. We have been given a marvelous, unique privilege and opportunity to literally create this model using existing federal and state laws and regulations.

This first article contains some of the foundational realities regarding the Anchorage School District education system, the detachment from the Municipality of Anchorage, and the subsequent incorporation of the new Chugach Regional Borough.  We believe in the end we will deliver better education for our children and families which will result in a better return on our hard-earned education investment dollars.

Community Participation

We are asking the Chugiak-Eagle River public to participate in a positive brainstorming session. Keep in mind this is the first time in the history of Alaska that we can create a “blank slate” to build an education foundation model from scratch. Our primary goal is to provide better outcomes and performance in education.

Thomas Sowell, in 2020, stated, “There is no need for a one-size-fits-all education, even if that presents a tableau pleasing to adults with a particular social vision.”

The detachment of the Chugach Regional Borough from the Municipality of Anchorage and the subsequent incorporation of a new school district is a major concern of our community. Nothing like this has ever happened in Alaska. 

Current and Projected Costs of Mill Rate Support

The Anchorage School District 2023 cost for the operation and maintenance of the 17 schools in the proposed Chugach Regional Borough is a little under $51 million. The current areawide property tax mill rate of 7.63, plus state and federal funds, exceeds this amount. The Chugach Regional Borough budget proposes a mill rate of 3.0.  This, along with the state and federal funds, will both supply the amount needed for the education system and reduce property taxes. This (hypothetically) results in a mill rate reduction of 4.63 mills translating into a property tax savings of $1,862 per year on a $400,000 home.

The Chugach Regional Borough proposed school district will utilize the current Anchorage School District real property in Chugiak-Eagle River, which includes over 1.4 million square feet of space, 266 acres of property, and 503 classrooms. 

Detachment – How Much Is Ours?

There has been some concern about how all this property and structure will be paid for by the new borough.

First, it must be remembered that the 9 property tax districts in Assembly District 2 (Chugiak-Eagle River) have continually paid their share since Municipality of Anchorage formation. This means like in a marriage, assets, and liabilities are a common undivided interest. With detachment, like a divorce, these assets and liabilities are equitably divided.

The detachment and incorporation process will require the settlement of assets and liabilities. Current school facilities within Assembly District 2 are valued at approximately $312,000,000. The currently estimated division of assets and liabilities between the Municipality of Anchorage and the proposed Chugach Regional Borough is between 12% and 15%, although this may change or be further refined with additional due diligence.

As of June 14, 2022, and not including any liabilities after that date, the Municipality of Anchorage liabilities, per the Municipality’ of Anchorage’s ‘s chief fiscal officer, are approximately $824 million. 12% to 15% of this amount will be approximately $99 million to $124 million. This may also include an approximate additional $100 million in rewriting the liabilities for the detachment. In other words, the amount of liabilities incurred by the new Chugach Regional Borough could be as high as $224 million.

The current Anchorage real property asset base, not including liquid and other assets, is approximately $8.7 billion. 12% to 15% of this amount will be approximately $1.044 billion to $1.305 billion. Even with the 15% liabilities including the rewrite of $224 million against the low of assets of approximately $1.044 billion, this will leave a balance due to the new Chugach Regional Borough of approximately $820 million in real property value. 

Again, this does not include any of the Municipality of Anchorage’s liquid or other assets which will be determined during the detachment process. It is concluded that such a settlement will not require any additional property tax to pay any debt resulting from detachment for the new CRB.

Improving Student Performance

The enrollment capacity of all school buildings in the new Chugach Regional Borough is 9,712 students according to Anchorage School District. The district estimated enrollment for 2023-2024 is a little over 7,100 so the new borough can absorb approximately 27% more students before the Chugach school district is at capacity. 

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development uses an assessment tool called Performance Evaluation of Alaska Schools (PEAKS). The 2020-2021 ASD PEAKS results for all grades with a reported enrollment of 22,112 using a student participation rate of 71.76% for English Language Arts and 71.17% for Mathematics resulted in a “Below/Far Below Proficient” rate for English Language Arts of 56.86% and Mathematics of 63.22%.

Conclusion

The Chugach Regional Borough proposed school district will have the ability to create a more personalized education model that meets the needs of its students. This can include project-based learning, apprenticeships, and other innovative approaches that have been shown to be effective in promoting student engagement and success.

The Chugach Regional Borough has a unique opportunity to create a new education model that prioritizes the needs and success of its students. With careful planning and collaboration with the community, the Chugach Regional Borough can build a system that provides better outcomes while also being more cost-effective. By leveraging existing resources and taking advantage of new opportunities, the Chugach Regional Borough can build a model that serves as a beacon for other communities looking to improve their own education systems. 

We will be providing the next article, which will continue to develop this model shortly. We look forward to continuing the conversation and working toward a brighter future for the children of the Chugiak-Eagle River area.

We encourage you to get involved, too. Feel free to call us anytime, and don’t hesitate to come to our weekly Tuesday evening meetings at the Cozy Carpet Warehouse behind the store at 7 pm.

Thank you for joining us in this effort.

Sean Murphy came to Alaska in the Army. Met his wife and moved to Eagle River in 1999 with his family. He is a retired Anchorage School District educator and administrator. He is active with his community council and is the new chair of Eaglexit.  He can be reached at [email protected] or 907-632-5307.

16 COMMENTS

  1. It’s all reasonable on paper, but one issue remains:

    How are you gonna convince the Muni and ASD to let you go?

    • Certainly not by lying on our backs and playing possum. Our community is very involved, but with no voice on the assembly. Once people see the feasibility of the separation they will get behind it in great numbers. And our community votes.

  2. I would be very skeptical that the 17 schools bus service cost is less per student than the ASD average. Does the O&M Cost for the 17 schools include General G&A from District Headquarters?, someone has to Contract and Administer for the 17 schools O&M. Cherry picking $$$ numbers is easy, a Certified CPA analysis would be more believeable.

  3. The first claim is that we will: “…literally create this model using existing federal and state laws and regulations”.

    Immediately proceeded by: “this is the first time in the history of Alaska that we can create a “blank slate” to build an education foundation model from scratch.”

    So someone is lying from the get-go. Personally I think if we want to instill conservative values in our children and protect parental rights we need to do away with “existing federal and state laws and regulations” as far as education is concerned and truly pick the blank slate option.

    However, it sounds like Eagle Exit is capitulating to the liberal educational institutions and will remain shackled to the current broken system. We have to do better or withdraw support and seek elsewhere for a system that doesn’t groom children and poison their minds it seems.

    • They need to follow US law so they can get free government grants (city welfare) and such for infrastructure support.

      • Government grants come with government restrictions. We see this with federal money all the time. If we allow it we will get scenarios such as “yes we will help you build this school with our money, but in return now you have to let men play on womens teams, or you can’t pray in school, or you must follow this new woke whatever”.

        We have to stop suckling the teat of the feds and letting them ruin generation after generation.

        • Yes you do, and I was surprised to see from Eagle River, given what THEY want to do.

          How is ER going to pay for it.

          • If we had a proper Republican leadership we would seize property and accounts of the registered democrats in the city limits as a nice starting funds booster. We have grounds based on how they’re grooming our kids. Then with them gone likely we won’t have any need for expensive social services and the cash surplus for that alone will solve all the money issues.

  4. If this split were to happen, real consideration should be given to reducing the dead weight (non educators) and paying very attractive wages to educators. Attracting top notch teaching talent should be given priority.
    I could ramble on about providing a top notch education for our students and not indoctrination them, but I’ll save that for another day.

  5. I am so looking forward to this coming Tuesdays meeting. Eagle River is in desperate need of a fresh start for our schools. I hope to bring some ideas, as I have just retired from a 23 year career that has been tied to the Anchorage School District.

  6. There will be hundreds if not thousands of people hoping they fail in their mission to accomplish a better environment for their children but those are only the Democrats who dont want anyone succeeding and showing ASD what a failure they have become. I am all in for doing whatever I can to help them succeed as I am already paying out tens of thousands of dollars for my grandchildrens private education as well as a hefty property tax to support the failed ASD money pit that produces nothing on my list of values in education. As well as mistrust in the entire administration in their ability to keep children safe from sick perverted content brought into the facilities as well as influence from demented employees that do not belong around children. I have witnessed this personally and have evidence of this. At least Eagle Exits folks are standing up and doing something besides sitting on their hands! I am here to back you 100%! This is the only way ASD can be exposed as the failure they are!

  7. When our little homestead community was established in 1947, the community worked together and built the town and schools with mostly their own hands. Anchorage had nothing to do with it. It was such a great model that many more like minded people moved here. Even though at the time there was much more space to build in Anchorage. These were people who did not care to raise their families in that environment. That remains mostly true today. Becoming part of the municipality was a matter of convenience then. That was before the reign of terror. Anchorage now is pushing for high density housing, taking over the parks that we built, pushing their agenda in our schools, and basically forcing their agenda on every aspect of our lives. And taxing the heck out of us without a say. The Highland Landfill is reaching capacity long before expected so you can expect the new sight to be in our neighborhood, again without our inputs.

    • You forgot how the little homestead community has all the things you dont want already. When I lived there no one fought against the building of Fire Eagle subdivision, the condos behind Cheapos, the building of publics and the condos in the area near the post office, the only person who said anything about it was then Anna Fairclough. The fact that APD refused to stop drug deals in the open at Shroeder Park and the park across from the bowling alley was ridiculous I agree. Anchorage has long turned a blind eye to the slide of Eagle River which the assembly person from ER let happen and the zoning committee signed off on.

      Bottom line is the Eagle River you remember has turned into largely transient people who moved ever 3-5 years or overpriced condos or the Mc Mansions up Eagle River Road that have been built. It literally has become the “Have’s” (People up ER Road) and the Have Nots (People in all the condos / Zero Lot lines and apartments). Eagle River has problems alot of them that people turn a blind eye to and pretend aren’t there.

      Instead of the select committee on people who want to break away why aren’t the community councils of ER/Chugiak being more aggressive with the city and APD about enforcement. Why is Chugiak / ER still served largely by an unstaffed non paid volunteer fire department and not a 2nd AFD station ?

      I loved there for a long time before moving when I realized how transient ER was and how really no one wanted to work to find a solution to any problem at all. There is so much wrong with your revisionist history it’s painful to read. You say the landfill was placed there without any inputs. Thats a 100% straight up falacy, having worked with permitting both federal and state I can promise you no one builds a landfill without tons of EIS work and public outreach. But don’t let fact ruin your rage

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