Park City School District bond debate continues
September 25, 2015
The heated debate surrounding the Park City School District’s controversial $56 million bond continues as Election Day grows nearer.
The district held the first of two scheduled public hearings regarding the bond Tuesday night, and residents crowded into the Board of Education meeting room. Several spoke out, both against and in support of the measure, which would pay for an expansive list of facility projects the district claims is necessary to meet the strains of growing enrollment.
The project list is as follows: Park City High School expansion and gym remodel ($27.5 million); a new fifth- and sixth-grade school at Ecker Hill campus ($24.8 million); improvements to McPolin Elementary School, including moving the parking lot ($1.4 million); demolition of Treasure Mountain Junior High ($606,336 — none from the bond); athletic facilities improvements ($12 million).
In addition to the $56 million from the 20-year bond, the district would use just more than $10 million from its capital reserves to complete the work. The bond would increase property taxes on an average primary residence, valued at $639,000, by $123 a year.
The district’s master planning and bonding process has proven controversial, however, which was again evident in Tuesday’s meeting. Multiple residents chastised the Board of Education for rushing to get a bond on the ballot, claiming that the district has not done its due diligence in looking for cheaper options and for failing to have more concrete, detailed plans for how the money will be used.
For its part, the district has consistently denied such assertions. Board members have on several occasions insisted that the process has been thorough and that quick completion of the projects is necessary for the best interest of students.
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PCSD representatives have also said that is it common for school districts to not be finished at this stage with the design phase, which will provide a more detailed look at the projects. Currently, the district is in the process of forming committees that will plan out the exact design of each project, under the guidance of a yet-to-be-hired construction manager.
Other residents criticized the district for the fact the plan will force students from within Park City proper to travel to Ecker Hill for four straight years, from grades five through eight.
There were plenty of people in favor of the bond, too. Notably, Moe Hickey, who until recently was a member of the Board of Education, provided a counter argument to those who have claimed the $12 million set aside for athletic facility upgrades — likely including an indoor field house — is overkill.
He listed several statistics that indicate participation in sports proves beneficial in the classroom.
"To say the facilities and the sports are not part of a child’s education is not true, and it’s something we need to continue to provide," he said.
Another resident said he supported the bond because he is a former teacher and that having top-notch facilities draws better teachers and administrators and improves the community.
Interestingly, residents didn’t spend much time discussing the potential move of Dozier Field if the high school expansion is to the west — Board members have indicated that is the most likely option — the element of the district’s plan that has drawn perhaps the most outcry in recent months.
The second public hearing about the bond is scheduled for Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at the school district office.
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