Each year, your Utah Taxpayers Association reviews all of the various bond proposals floated by taxing entities around the state.
While we generally try to meet with school districts to reduce overall bonding costs through the encouragement of cost-cutting construction methods, in 2019 it seems Utah taxpayers do not have an appetite for passing hundred million dollar bonds for new school district construction.
The six school district bonds your Taxpayers Association reviewed, only two passed, according to preliminary election results. These two, Kane County and Carbon School districts, proposed relatively small bonds.
Kane County School District proposed a $23 million bond to construct a new elementary school. A whopping 70% of voters approved this. Carbon School District asked voters for $36 million in order to upgrade several schools and add an addition to Carbon High School. This passed by a much narrower margin of 53% to 46%.
Bonds in Provo ($245 million), Tooele ($190 million), Wasatch ($150 million), and South Summit ($87 million) all were rejected by voters.
Does this mean taxpayers are getting tired of constant rebuilds, remodels, and excessive school district spending on facilities? In fact, in 2018, Utah school districts spent nearly $1.2 billion on new construction and renovation projects.
We are informed that Idaho law requires a ⅔ supermajority for school bond proposals. This appears to be the reason school design extravagance is less common in the Gem State than it is here.
In recent years, some new Utah schools have rung the register with prices as high as $110 million, and that price continues to climb as school districts build grandiose structures that far exceed the necessity for educating our children.
Corner Canyon High School in the Canyons School District is a perfect example of excess in building costs. In 2010, the Canyons School District Board authorized a bond of $250 million, primarily for the construction of a new high school, Corner Canyon. The Board stated that the high cost will ensure that the high school will be prepared for students for decades to come. The Board of Education even alloted for a 13-ton dome to be part of the construction of the building.
The bond passed 50.68% to 49.32%.
Fast forward just five years after construction finished, and the Board asked taxpayers for even more money for Corner Canyon. In 2017, the Canyons School Board stated they needed an additional $10 million for an expansion in Corner Canyon, the high school with a dome.
While some school districts such as Washington in Utah’s Dixie are doing the right thing, using low-cost construction methods while working to maintain a building that can educate students for years to come, others are following the Canyons School District model. It seems taxpayers are sick and tired of it.
Here’s a brief synopsis of general obligation bonds on the ballot, and how the preliminary results are shaking out:
Tooele School District- $190 million proposal to construct a new high school, junior high and elementary school as well as security upgrades. For: 41.7%. Against: 58.3%.
South Summit School District- $87 million proposal to construct a new high school. The old high school will remain in use for the junior high. The School Board has committed to follow the most cost-effective construction methods in order to avoid unnecessary costs. For: 47.5%. Against: 52.5%.
Provo School District- $245 million proposal to repair about 90% of Timpview High School that is suffering from some shifting and movement under the school, and rebuild Dixon, Wasatch and Westridge Elementary Schools, as well as security upgrades for 10 schools. For: 36.9%. Against: 63.1%.
Wasatch School District- $150 million proposal to construct a new high school and elementary school. For: 42.9%. Against: 57.1%.
Kane School District- $23 million proposal to construct a new elementary school. For: 70.7%. Against: 29.3%.
Carbon School District- $36 million proposal to upgrade several schools and add an addition to Carbon High School. For: 53.4%. Against: 46.6%.
Santaquin City- $12 million proposal to construct a recreation and aquatics center. The Utah Taxpayers Association has always been opposed to government seeking to compete with private taxpaying business at the expense of taxpayers. Against: 74.5%. For: 25.5%.