Park City School board should rein in bond proposal
March 31, 2017
The report in The Park Record this week that the Park City Board of Education has selected a design for the expansion of Park City High School which will cost $68 million and that other planned expenditures for a new school for fifth and sixth graders and the acquisition of land for future school sites could require approval of a bond of $100 million or more, raises a lot of questions that need to be answered before the voters decide how to proceed on this matter.
When the local voters rejected the $56 million school bond in 2015, there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency on how $12 million of the bond was to be spent on athletic facility improvements. We did not know how that money was to be spent, and there was a suspicion that a field house would be built for the lacrosse teams, which was seen by many as an unnecessary frill.
Local voters have a right to know how school bond money is to be spent, and it is important that adequate details be provided so they can determine if the expenditures are prudent and cost effective. Accordingly, more information should be provided about the costs expected to rebuild the physical education and athletic facilities in the west wing and to build the career and technical education program facilities. What exactly is to be included in the new west wing and how will it be used?
It is likely that at least $30 million of the bond will be for physical education and athletic facilities, and that raises the question of why so much more is needed than was proposed for athletic facilities in 2015. Is there a less expensive way to provide the essential facilities?
Because of the failure of the 2015 school bond, the Board of Education is not starting from a very strong position as it seeks approval of another much more expensive bond. There is a lot of uncertainty about the cost, design and location of the new school for fifth- and sixth-grade students, and the vague requirement for land for future school sites. The board should provide more information about their plans for these additional expenses which represent approximately 32 percent of the bond.
My recommendation to the Board of Education is to reexamine the plan and find a way to reduce the cost of the bond. I would split the bond into two or three parts for separate approvals so it isn't completely rejected, as it is likely to be if it is for $100 million or more. The Board should disavow any of the crazy talk about a capitol levy tax. Such an irresponsible and arrogant end run would be divisive and would be punished for years.
There is likely to be a recreation bond of approximately $48 million proposed in the near future to fund the Mountain Facilities Recreation Master Plan that will compete with the education bond. It is unlikely that the community will fully fund both the recreation bond and the education bond this year. So it is crucial that the school expenditures be seen as prudent, transparent and cost effective. The Board of Education has a heavy burden in meeting that requirement.