Group forms in opposition to PCSD bond
Discussion has heated up in recent months about the Park City School District’s $56 million bond, and now a formal opposition group has surfaced.
Residents Jim Tedford and Ali Ziesler, who have spoken out against the bond at several public meetings, are heading up the group, called Citizens For Better Education. They say they are all for improving Park City schools, but don’t believe the district’s ambitious bond is the way to do it.
"We just want what’s best for the kids," Tedford said. "That’s why we call ourselves Citizens for Better Education. We just don’t think this is the absolute best product for our kids."
Ziesler said the group is representing hundreds of residents who have questions that haven’t been answered about the bond and how its money will be used.
"The main questions stem from the vagueness about how the money will specifically be spent," she said. "There seems to be a request from the School Board that says, ‘Give us $56 million and trust us.’ But when you start digging with some questions, it becomes, ‘Well, we’re not really sure how that’s going to look.’"
Tania Knauer, president of the Board of Education, said the forming of an opposition group is not a surprise. It will allow residents to hear both perspectives of the debate.
"It’s a democratic process, and whenever you have a bond going on to a ballot, you’re generally going to have two sides," Knauer said. "It’s a great opportunity for our community to hear both sides. The School Board obviously feels the plan we put forward addresses our urgent needs, as well as being the most fiscally responsible plan. We just hope the voters listen to all the facts, then get out and vote on Nov. 3."
Much of Citizens For Better Education’s consternation stems from its belief that the school district rushed into the bond. The group feels that more research could have led to better solutions than those included in district’s expansive project list the bond would fund. Tedford and Ziesler also claim that the process was not as transparent as it should have been and didn’t involve enough of the community.
"It needs more time," Tedford said. "If there was more time put into this, and they came up with a real solid plan that the community took part in next year, I wouldn’t have a problem voting for whatever method they have to finance it, personally."
Knauer countered that the process was well-researched and thorough. She said the district has worked hard to involve residents and keep the community apprised of the proceedings.
"It was over 10 months, and the master planning committee was meeting once a week from January through July for many hours," she said, adding that the master planning committee was chaired by two residents with extensive professional experience, Rory Murphy and Sean Morgan. "And there were meetings on top of that regarding master planning. I don’t think you need to spend two or three years putting together your needs. It’s really not about the amount of time you spend on it, but the quality you put in."
While Citizens For Better Education is attempting to reach as many residents as it can, it did not meet the Sept. 4 deadline to file a statement opposing the bond with the county clerk’s office to be included in the voter information pamphlet mailed to residents within the school district. According to Summit County clerk Kent Jones, the district filed an argument in favor of the bond.
Ziesler said she didn’t know about the Sept. 4 deadline until later that month. She added that it would have been a tough deadline to meet regardless, since the Board of Education voted for the bond only two-and-a-half weeks earlier, on Aug. 18.
"For someone who already knows what they’re doing and has a plan, or is in the political know, maybe they could have met that timeline," she said. "But for normal residents, who are still trying to gather facts, that’s not easy. I called Sept. 18, and they told me I missed the deadline. If I hadn’t called, I still wouldn’t have known."
The group has asked the district if it can post its arguments on the district’s website, pcschools.us, which lists information in favor of the bond. Nancy Garrison, a member of the Board of Education, said posting that information is legally required of a bonding entity and that the district has sought legal counsel to find a way to provide the group with a reasonable platform for its arguments.
"It’s good practice to encourage that discourse," she said.