Park City School District could increase taxes if bond fails
September 29, 2015
The Park City School District may be moving forward with its project list whether voters approve a controversial $56 million bond or not.
What could happen if the bond fails has become a hot topic in recent weeks, with the district divulging its backup plan: The Board of Education could raise the capital levy tax. It would allow the district to get the money it needs to complete its expansive list of projects, but would come at a much higher cost to taxpayers.
The 20-year bond would increase property taxes on an average primary residence, valued at $639,000, by $123 a year. Phil Kaplan, a member of the Board, said a capital levy tax increase could be much more expensive for residents, at least in the short term. The Board is estimating it would cost taxpayers roughly $360 to $600 a year over a period of three to five years.
Exact details of a potential capital levy tax increase have not yet been determined because the Board would have to revisit how it intends to use its capital reserves, then sequence the projects based on the timing of accumulating the necessary funding, Kaplan said.
"Obviously it’s a more painful thing to do for taxpayers, so it’s not the first choice," Kaplan said. "And the district would have to take a hard look at how much we can really increase it, and the reality is to accumulate the revenue we would need to be able to go through the list of projects would take three to five years of three to five times the tax rate. So it’s not the optimal way to do it."
The bond the district is asking taxpayers to support would fund much of the following: 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).
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In addition to the $56 million from the bond, the district would use just more than $10 million from its capital reserves to complete the work.
Kaplan said the district would much prefer the bond to be passed. But the district still views its list of projects as essential for Park City students, regardless of how residents vote on Election Day.
"We still have, whether or not there’s a bond, capacity constraints from growth, we have athletic facilities that are a couple decades out of date and completely off of regional standards, we have shortage of performing arts space, especially once we bring the ninth grade in, and we have a building that frankly needs to be replaced," he said. "Regardless of whether this funding source is available to the district or not, we still have needs."
Critics of the bond are already speaking out against the district discussing the capital levy tax. In a public hearing about the bond Sept. 22, resident Joe Cronley told the Board it would be "run out of town" if it raised the tax to fund the projects after taxpayers voted down the bond.
Cronley said in an interview with The Park Record that there would be community-wide outrage, and residents would likely explore options to remove Board members from their posts.
"That’s what I would say would happen," he said. "They’re just not listening at all to their (constituents). If the bond were to fail, and they were to go forward with this tax levy, it would just show that the Board is not acting in line with the will of the people.
"(The tax) shouldn’t even be talked about right now, so I’m surprised that they’re talking about it," added Cronley, who has been a vocal critic of the bond, but supports some elements of it such as expanding the high school for ninth-graders. "I’m surprised they’re using it as a strategy for their stand, but that’s what they’re choosing to do."
Kaplan brushed off claims that the district is doing anything wrong by talking about the capital levy tax, but admitted that the Board is concerned about how residents would view a large tax increase. He said he is hopeful that taxpayers understand that the district has a recent history of not being quick to tax, claiming that the average homeowner would pay 26 percent less toward Park City schools than a decade ago if the bond passes, adjusting for inflation.
"Of course we are (concerned), which is why we recommended the bond," Kaplan said. "We’re trying to take the approach that’s fiscally responsible in terms of the total spend."
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