"An Act relating to ownership of land by regional school boards; and providing for an effective date. "
"Several regional schools are located on state airport properties, some in very close proximity to active runways and airport infrastructure. At various times, regional school boards have requested that DOT&PF convey full title of the airport land to the schools."
- Sen. Bunde
Currently there exist conflicting statutes regarding ownership of land for state airports. AS 02.15.020 requires that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) conforms to federal requirements if the state wishes to participate in federal grants. A newer statute, AS 14.08.151(b) gives a regional school board the opportunity to receive title to land used in relation to regional educational attendance area schools.
While the Alaska Legislature clearly intended to allow regional school boards the option of greater control of their facilities through acquisition of title, there is no record that the Legislature intended to do so at the cost of federal liability, significant loss of federal funding, and a degraded state airport system.
Several regional schools are located on state airport properties, some in very close proximity to active runways and airport infrastructure. At various times, regional school boards have requested that DOT&PF convey full title of the airport land to the schools. This has caused confusion, staff time in both the Departments of Education and DOT&PF, as well as attorney costs, to defend DOT&PF's title to its airport property.
DOT&PF, acting as a sponsor under federal law, makes extensive use of federal grant funding for airport construction and improvements. The Federal Aviation Administration imposes enforceable grant conditions on the recipients of federal funds. As a condition of acceptance, DOT&PF is required to expend federal grant funds in strict accordance with those federal conditions. FAA requires DOT&PF to certify assurances that it has "satisfactory property interest" in the airport to obtain these necessary federal grants. Under AS 14.08.151(b), a mandatory title transfer of airport property that is subject to FAA grant assurances would violate AS 02.15.020(c) and would breach federal grant agreements. This is because DOT&PF would be required to transfer title to property that the department has assured to the FAA that it would retain in state ownership for airport purposes, including the fiscal support of the airport.
There being no indication of legislative intent to compel the State of Alaska to breach FAA grant agreements in violation of AS 02.15.020(c), the best interpretation of AS 14.08.151 limits its applicability to non-airport lands.
This bill will benefit the public, the regional school boards, the Department of Education and DOT&PF by clarifying the intent of the conveyance language to exclude airport properties.