Voters in the Alpine School District will be voting on the largest proposed school district bond issue ever in the state of Utah, at $595 million. Your Utah Taxpayers Association issued a statement about the proposal along with an explanation of our NEUTRAL position on it:
September 26, 2022
The Utah Taxpayers Association has elected to take a neutral position on the proposed issuance of $595 million in debt by the Alpine School District.
This will be the largest issuance of school district bond debt ever in Utah. While the amount of the proposal is staggering, at $595 million, Alpine is unique in that it is the largest school district in Utah and is experiencing rapid growth at the same time. The size of the district combined with the many needs for new construction in the hyper growth areas as well as renovation needs for older buildings in the more established areas of the district combines for a large amount of taxpayer dollars needed to meet the needs of the district.
The innovative strategy by ASD of staggering the debt issuance over a number of years provides some protection for taxpayers that should result in less impact to the overall tax burden. Aggressive repayment of principal on previously issued debt is also making this strategy possible.
The Association believes that the statement: “the bond will not increase the tax rate” can be misleading to voters. The correct explanation of the proposal is: that without the issuance of this new debt, taxes would be lowered in upcoming years. If this debt is issued according to the plan, the overall tax burden on district taxpayers should remain approximately the same as now going forward.
*Note: The impending vote on the proposed split of Orem into a new district will not affect this bond issue. If the district is split, corresponding projects within the new district and the dollar amount of those projects will be pulled out of the $595 million total and be voted on and implemented by the new governing body.
In addition to this bond issue, voters in Orem will be voting on a proposal, Proposition 2, that would split Orem from the Alpine School District and form a new district of their own. This issue has generated a lot of conversation and various claims have been made surrounding it. The Utah Taxpayers Association has done extensive research on the proposal and issued the following statement urging voters in Orem to vote YES on Proposition 2:
Utah Taxpayers Association Statement on Proposition 2 in Orem: Vote YES
After extensive research and analysis, the Utah Taxpayers Association wanted to provide the taxpayers or Orem with accurate information that will hopefully inform them as they vote on Proposition 2. The Association has gathered information from the Utah County Assessor, the Utah State Tax Commission, the Utah State Board of Education and the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst.
“Stronger Together” claims that, if Orem were to be split into a new school district, property taxes would go up by 56%. This is patently false. This claim is based on inaccurate calculations which suggest that Alpine School District subsidizes Orem school costs. These calculations are inaccurate for several reasons. First, they do not include all sources of funding that flow to a school district, which gives a distorted view of reality. Second, they initially relied on data that was mistakenly taken from 2017, and have since had to correct that claim. Another mistake was found when it was discovered that they included two high-cost schools which are no longer located in Orem and therefore should not be included. In fact, data produced by the Alpine School District shows that Orem taxpayers are contributing a larger percentage of revenue to the Alpine School District than their proportionate share of the student population.
With the proper taxable property values in the proposed district and conservative estimates of state funding and federal funding, it is reasonable to conclude that an Orem school district would very likely have sufficient revenue to support itself without the need for a property tax increase. In fact, an independent feasibility study was conducted that came to this conclusion. By our own calculations, if higher taxes were needed, any near term increase would be very modest. If the the cities of Lindon and Vineyard were added to the new district eventually as well, the tax base would be even stronger. Finally, in a smaller district that was Orem-centric, Orem taxpayers could better hold the new school board accountable for any proposed bonds or changes in tax rates.
Finally, the proposed Orem school district boundary has a very robust tax base. This leads us to one final question that we believe Orem taxpayers should consider.
That is, if the claims by “Stronger Together” were correct (in that the remainder of Alpine School District subsidizes Orem to the tune of millions of dollars per year) why would they so vociferously oppose letting the Orem tax base form its own district?
If one part of an organization is a financial drain, why oppose letting that part go?
The vocal opposition to this proposal leads one to believe that the opposite is true: the Orem tax base is valuable and in fact, contributes more than its fair share to the Alpine School District.
Therefore, Orem taxpayers are justified in seeking more local control over their contribution to education, and the Utah Taxpayers Association urges Orem taxpayers to vote in favor of Proposition 2.