Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Chuck & Sarah Klingenstein, Park City

Over the next couple of months some very important government planning processes will culminate. The Park City School District’s High School Expansion Plans and the combined City/School District/Snyderville Basin Recreation District’s Recreation Master Plan will be finalized in some form and adopted by their respective governmental bodies. These are capital projects and carry the commitment to build, operate and maintain new or vastly renovated facilities.

The School District will share four alternatives for the high school expansion with the public in the next few months, but without cost estimates. The Recreation Master Plan does have detailed cost estimates in today’s dollars for a plan that spans 20 years. Examples of the costs (in 2016 dollars) range from a Kearns Campus recommended concept at $35 million to Silver Creek’s recommended concept with alternatives ranging from $38 million to $68 million. A Quinn’s Junction recommended concept with alternatives could cost a range of $3 million to $38 million. The wide ranges show that the plan is a framework, and will depend on future public input, public/private partnerships, timing and who may build them on the 12 identified parcels.

We applaud the School District’s high school expansion planning process and their joining the joint recreation planning. We hope they will stay focused on educational NEEDS and improving athletic facilities to address real NEEDS and to consider that each facility we build we must also be operated and maintained. Presenting the chosen alternatives without cost estimates risks getting us hooked on all the really cool things without understanding what we will pay for their building, operation and upkeep.
-Are they addressing how the high school plans fit with other current needs? These include safety improvements to McPolin Elementary and a school to house our middle grades, or possibly a fifth elementary school.
-We also wonder about other possible future NEEDS that might necessitate important tax or fee increases by the City, County, Recreation District, Fire District and Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District. We just passed two sales tax increases: one for transit and one for transportation projects. Another potential tax increase is for Bonanza Flats.

While we are blessed with a robust sales and property tax base, there are always limits to what we can do. The community generally supports tax and fee increases associated with NEEDS. The hard part is identifying the community’s NEEDS vs WANTS and that is where citizen participation is imperative. What’s important to you?

Personally, we support paying increased taxes to fund schools to educate our children for the 21st Century. We are willing to pay for improved transportation and transit infrastructure to alleviate transportation issues. But more recreation infrastructure is not a high priority to us, given the many other current and future needs of our community. We agree with the City Council when they brought up “the high price tag associated with the projects and the fact that recreation is not one of Council’s critical priorities.”

We should go into this period with our eyes wide open. It is challenging to think in a holistic way when all the cards are not laid out, but may be dealt over time. Is more always better? We should add up the cumulative costs of all of these improvements being considered – then add in the other future needs and wants of our citizens and governments: city, county, fire district and rec district.

If we, the citizens, do not carefully evaluate our governmental NEEDS vs WANTS, we will be unable to show up angrily at future public hearings regarding tax increases and honestly wonder how we got there.

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