On November 25, 2014, four members of the Alpine School Board put corporate interests over children’s education in their vote to approve the University Place CDA.
The Alpine School District is one of the lowest funded school districts in the state, yet John Burton, JoDee Sundberg, Scott Carlson and Deborah Taylor voted to give up $38.5 million in property tax revenue so that Woodbury Corporation can enjoy a tax subsidy in redeveloping Orem’s University Mall.
These four school board officials have rolled children under the bus in favor of subsidies for a mall and office space. Their vote shows how economically illiterate these school board members are and questions their fitness to manage precious education resources.
Do the Alpine Board members really believe that by subsidizing more retail and office space there will be new economic activity in Utah beyond the temporary construction project? Do they believe the existing population will spend more because of subsidized new retail stores, or that there will be greater demand for office space because Alpine School District decides to subsidize a developer instead of educating kids? Or do they actually believe people from neighboring states will flock to Utah County to shop at University Place? Every activity subsidized by the Alpine School District in the University Place project would already occur in the Utah economy without a tax subsidy. There will not be one more retail sale or retail job resulting from the subsidy; instead, other retailers already established in the broader community will have fewer sales and fewer jobs. Since commercial property taxes are based on the income approach, the net property values in the larger community will not be positively affected by the subsidy. Similarly, the office space in the project will simply take from projects that would have been built elsewhere in the greater community without tax subsidies. This is basic Economics 101, a class obviously missed by the four board members who approved the scheme.
During the school board’s discussion of the CDA it was mentioned numerous times that the $38.5 million was to be used for infrastructure development, not towards the retail activities of Woodbury Corporation. But this is a false dichotomy and reveals the economic ignorance of these board members. Subsidizing infrastructure only decreases the total development costs for Woodbury and allows them to financially benefit from money that could have gone to the District’s students.
School Board members warned that Woodbury would only invest $100 million in the project if the CDA was not approved, but would spend $500 million if the agreement gained a favorable vote. These school board members were duped into believing that Woodbury would not invest in a project that they view as profitable simply because the school district refused to provide a subsidy. If the project is actually economically viable, we could expect Woodbury to pursue profits accordingly, without the need for a subsidy.
Voters in the Alpine School District need to hold John Burton, JoDee Sundberg, Scott Carlson and Deborah Taylor accountable for their shameful actions supporting corporate welfare at the expense of children.
The Association appreciates School Board members Paula Hill, Wendy Hart, and Brian Halladay for their “no” votes on the tax giveaway.