Saturday, March 24, 2018

A resounding no

Park City voters shoot down school bond

Park City voters overwhelmingly voted down a $9.4 million school bond election aimed at completing Phase 1 of a new combined elementary-high school building.
In order for the project to go forward, voters needed to approve the bond election in both the elementary and high school districts. According to unofficial results from the school district office, both failed to pass – the elementary district lost by 482-299, and the high school district lost by 486-297.
“It’s very disappointing,” Park City School Superintendent Dan Grabowska said. “Last spring, we ran a levy to fix the facilities and it got shot down. It’s back to the drawing board.”
The mail-in ballots included two measures – a $5.6 million bond for the elementary district and a $3.7 million bond for the high school district. The tax impact on a home with a market value of $100,000 would be about $133 for the elementary district, $89 for the high school district and $222 for the two combined.
Grabowska said the bond election likely failed because of the dollar amount. He said the local PTA promoted the measure and he never heard of any campaign to oppose the school bond.
To address overcrowding in their aging facility, the school district’s plan was to build part of a combined elementary and high school on school-owned land about three blocks east of the current school and finish the entire school project in two more phases sometime in the future.
The school district bought about 20 acres of land bordered by Second and Fourth Avenues Southeast about 13 years ago. Taxpayers paid off the bonds for the land in 2011.
Park City is primarily a bedroom community with no industrial and little commercial tax base to support local schools. A $7 million bond election to expand the current school lost by 50 votes in April 2015.
A change in state law last year now allows the school district to borrow up to $16 million, which provided the school board with an opportunity to come up with a new plan.
The district chose not to build a separate elementary school or high school because the bonding capacity for the elementary and high school districts is about $8.5 million each – not enough for a $12 million elementary school or a $15 million high school.
Park City School currently uses three trailers to house overflow students and offices, Grabowska said. The district office shares a single-wide with a math class for 20 students with no bathroom.
“We’ll need at least two doublewides for the next school year, but I don’t know where we’ll put them,” Grabowska said.
When the district looked at trailers in the past, they found a doublewide with an office and bathroom can cost $250,000 to lease over 15 years compared to $150,000 to buy one.
“But we have to run a bond request to buy trailers,” Grabowska said. “It could take us five months to line up the trailers we need, so they may not be ready by the next school year.”