PCSD bond to take center stage at panel discussion
October 6, 2015
For months, both sides of the contentious debate surrounding the Park City School District’s $56 million bond proposal have boisterously stated their claims.
But due to the formats of the forums in which the issue has been discussed, such as Board of Education meetings and public hearings, the sides have had little chance for an earnest back-and-forth in a live, public setting. That will change next week when the issue is debated in a panel discussion at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s Project for Deeper Understanding.
The Project for Deeper Understanding, whose mission is to provide civil, in-depth discussions on hot-button topics, will feature six panelists. There will be two residents in support of the bond (Moe Hickey and Katherine Hoggan), two residents against it (Joe Cronley and another yet to be determined) and two members of the Board of Education (Tania Knauer and Phil Kaplan). There will be a moderated discussion, followed by a question-and-answer session involving the audience.
The Project for Deeper Understanding will allow both sides to address claims the other has made.
"This will be good because we’ll have both sides there, so when one side brings up information, the other side will have an opportunity to offer a rebuttal," said Knauer, who is the president of the Board of Education. "What it will do is give people in the audience the opportunity to determine which is the answer they believe or that resonates most with them when they get out and vote."
Cronley, who was approached by the Project for Deeper Understanding to participate, said the discussion will provide a valuable tool for residents who are weighing the pros and cons of the bond before they head to the polls on Election Day.
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He added, however, that public back-and-forth discussions should have been happening throughout the whole process.
"This is something that would have been beneficial to have months ago," he said. "And it would have been beneficial to have more than just this one. But I think it will be good for people to see it. I think dialogue is a thing that this whole issue needs. So I’m for dialogue."
The bond that sparked the debate would fund several capital projects the school district contends are necessary to keep up with rising enrollment. It includes 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).
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. If passed, the 20-year bond would cost homeowners of an average primary residence valued at $639,000 a total of $123 a year.
But opponents have claimed that the bond is too costly and have questioned the need of some of its elements. They have also criticized the district for not being transparent throughout the master-planning process and rushing the bond through without enough community input.
Bob Richer, a member of the Project for Deeper Understanding’s planning and organizing committee, said he anticipates that the discussion will better inform the audience about the issue. But the goal is also for those involved in the debate to see the opposition’s arguments more clearly.
"We hope they will try to understand the other side’s perspective," he said. "So it doesn’t just result in a debate, but more of an educational session. Hopefully at the end of the evening the audience and the panelists on the pro side can have a better understanding of the concerns of the con side and vice versa."
The Project for Deeper Understanding discussion will be held Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
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