October 20, 2009
Editorial Staff

Davis, Duchesne and Granite school districts are prudent in asking taxpayers to approve more than a half-billion dollars in bonds to finance school construction, remodeling and updating. We lend our endorsement to all three bond elections that will appear on ballots Nov. 3.

Going into debt while the effects of the Great Recession linger may not seem wise at first glance. But the timing would work to the districts’ benefit. Historically low interest rates and relatively low construction costs can combine to provide taxpayers a real bargain.

First, let’s look at Granite School District’s Proposition 1, a $256 million bond. This unusually conservative district has not asked for approval to borrow money since 1983. During those 26 years, it has paid for construction projects from an existing capital fund. We’ve questioned the wisdom of this approach, when the growing number of children in the district’s schools has increased the wear and tear on buildings, and the lack of air conditioning has made year-round schedules difficult.

So we support this plan to pay for air conditioning in all 51 of the district’s schools, as well as three new schools and the rebuilding of five others, including Olympus and Granger high schools.

And, taxpayers should find little to criticize since their taxes will not go up.

The district will use its $17 million capital fund, replenished each year with current taxes, to repay the bond.

Things are different in the Davis district. The $250 million bond is the third bond election this decade. The plan to piggyback this bond on one that’s set to retire means property tax bills will not change. But if it were defeated, taxpayers would see a small savings as the older debt is paid off. So it must be considered a tax increase, although a relatively painless one.

The money would be used for a new junior high, two elementary schools, additional classrooms for existing schools, a reconstructed Wasatch Elementary and a special-needs school for physically disabled students. It would also fund maintenance projects districtwide. The space is needed in this growing district, which may grow by 22,000 students in 10 years and could become the state’s largest at 84,000.

Duchesne School District taxpayers would take the biggest hit of the three if they OK its $49 million bond. It would raise taxes about $168 per year on the average home. But Altamont and Union high schools are in desperate need of repair. The bond would also build an elementary school.

The three bonds deserve voters’ approval.