Guest editorial: | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial:

Ray Freer, Park City,

Regardless of the outcome of the school bond issue, we should be appreciative of the effort of the School Board and the Master-planning Committee headed by Rory Murphy. Some have suggested it was a rushed effort. Moe Hickey, a committee member, said it was not rushed, that it took about three hours a week for almost a year and there were numerous subcommittee meetings examining various elements separate from the overall committee meetings.

Having said that does not make the committee’s conclusions perfect. The school board did not accept all of its recommendations. No committee will arrive at conclusions that are good in the eyes of all beholders; some will benefit more than others. This is so with a school bond as large and sweeping as this, covering several schools and locations.

The committee considered two things. First, the present need that will become more critical year by year. Second, that the bond issue and its improvements are designed to take care of needs for the next 10 years or more. If this were shorter term in character and the improvements undertaken on a piecemeal basis, the bond issue would not be as large but I doubt it would be feasible to float bond issues repetitively in smaller amounts. Also, I think this would result in a hodgepodge of improvements rather than a cohesive plan.

At the Oct. 13 Project for Deeper Understanding forum, all of the panelists, both pro and con, agreed the school district needs additional facilities. The issues ranged around the composition of the school improvements, not their necessity.

Our school district has a Triple A credit rating and the interest rate obtainable now is low. It is likely that interest rates will rise. As Joe Cronley said, when the proceeds from the bond issue of $56 million are combined with interest over the 20-year life of the bond, the total amount is about $90 million. If the bond issue fails, Joe didn’t necessarily think the amount of funding required for a revised set of improvements would result in lower cost. Assuming funding requirements remain the same, a higher interest rate would probably result in a total cost of the bond of over $100,000,000. That’s the bad news.

The good news is we can afford it. The tax rate in Park City for a $220,000 house results in a levy of $790 and that is the lowest in the state of Utah. So, a bond, amortized over 20 years, is a prudent solution.

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Following the forum, it was suggested that another bond issue could be undertaken in less than a year. I doubt that since a new master plan committee would have to be formed and go through the same procedures and due diligence as the past one. If this bond issue is rejected, I imagine that any new master planning committee and the school board would be leery as well.

The bond issue provides funds to the school district for improvements as described in the bond documents. It does not preclude tweaking the location of those improvements. I believe the locations of some of the proposed structures can be changed with board approval. Not being an attorney I cannot state this unequivocally, but this comes from more than one source.

Things must be worked out, among which are traffic and parking issues, athletic improvements and their joint operation with the City and, possibly, Basin Rec, final design of improvements and their cost, etc. I believe the school board can come to good conclusions on these issues. But, the board must use strong discipline in estimating the costs and take great care to eliminate change orders. Phil Kaplan, of the School Board promises that it will be rigorous, avoiding cost overruns.

In conclusion, get out and vote! Either for or against, it is your franchise to exercise.