$79 million school bond overwhelmingly approved (UPDATED)
Voters strongly in favor of infrastructure spending
Residents within the Park City School District overwhelmingly approved the district’s $79.2 million bond measure Tuesday, with nearly two-thirds of the voting public giving it their stamp of approval.
Vote totals came in around 9 p.m. Tuesday night, and proponents of public education had to be pleased with what they saw. Out of 8,685 ballots cast, 5,590 of them, or 64%, were for the bond. The margin of victory should give district leadership confidence they are on the right track.
“Investing in our schools is an investment in our children’s future, and we’re proud of our community’s support in galvanizing positive momentum and energy around our community’s schools and our community’s children,” said Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea. “An improved learning environment benefits our learners and our staff, reduces transitions between grades, and helps us to be strong partners in creating a sustainable future.”
The $79.2 million bond is just a portion of the $129 million in infrastructure spending proposed by the district as the culmination of its yearslong master planning process. The process began in 2018 and the first phase of the project will expand Park City High School to accommodate the ninth grade, expand Ecker Hill Middle School to fit the eighth grade and build additions to all four elementary schools for pre-kindergarten programs and other services.
The district held several public meetings in the lead-up to election night, but few people attended. Perhaps counterintuitively, that was seen as a positive sign, as the district’s $56 million bond proposal in 2015 drew passionate opposition in the months leading up to its failure. At one of the district’s public meetings in early October, Board of Education member Andrew Caplan said the district learned valuable lessons from that misstep.
“What we learned is that there was not a lot of buy-in from the community to move our football field, renovate gymnasiums, things like that,” he said at the meeting. “It’s not to say we don’t need those renovations.”
According to the district, the remainder of the $129 million in infrastructure costs, about $49.8 million, will be paid for with real property leases. Caplan has said the interest rates for those leases are not much more than for the bond, and that the district wanted to diversify the financing plan, not ask the public to approve a bond for the entirety of the $129 million. A real property lease, he said, also offers more flexibility in how it is repaid. A parent group could throw a bake sale, for instance, and the proceeds could go toward paying down the lease.
“The Board of Education will vet and determine the financing opportunities that are available to them in upcoming months,” Gildea said. “Those scenarios and conversations will continue to occur at the public meeting of the Board of Education each month.”
The district will now move forward with phase one of its projects, the biggest of which will be Park City High School. According to Gildea, the district will take a look at design work this winter and bid packages for materials this spring. Construction at PCHS will likely begin in July 2022, followed by construction at Ecker Hill in August. The less-involved projects at the district’s elementary schools should begin next fall.
If all goes to plan, the elementary schools will be completed in the fall of 2023, with Ecker Hill completed in July 2024 and PCHS in August, in time for the start of the 2024-2025 school year.
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