Guest editorial: Former staff member fed up with school district bond
As a retired educator and former staff member of the Park City School District, it is with great reluctance and a heavy heart that I will cast my first ever "NO" vote on a proposed educational bond issue.
I will do so for several reasons that have nothing to do with taxes but everything to do with the process, respect for the wishes of the community and effective use of its tax resources.
Park City School District residents have always supported, by wide margins, well thought out citizen/board-developed proposals presented to it. The fact that this bond proposal has caused such division in our community is reason enough to reject it and tell the board to start over. The Board has rejected recommendations of its appointed Master Planning Committee and the Superintendent of Schools. In a rush to judgment, to get a proposal on this November’s ballot, it has chosen to present a half-baked, detail absent proposal on a "trust us we know best" basis. The proposal to spend $56 million from a bond, $10 million from the capital fund and an unmentioned $24 million interest cost over 20 years for a total of $90 million demands community consensus not just approval of five people no matter how smart they may be.
The Board’s proposal for Athletic Facilities calls for spending over $12 million to tear down and replace recently improved existing facilities, which could be upgraded at far less costs and would be building new facilities of questionable need. This constitutes over 20% of the proposed bond or roughly $40,000 each if 300 students use them on a regular basis.
I do not oppose improved athletic facilities; but a far better course of action might be to renegotiate the Joint Use Agreement with the City and County Rec Board to assure adequate access for high school teams during winter months. This would allow us to JOINTLY study and develop a long-range plan for the entire community’s needs as we go forward. It is not just the school district’s responsibility. The athletic portion of this bond should be a joint city/county/district separate proposal as recommended by the Master Planning Committee.
What portion of this bond is planned for the improvement and implementation of upgrade academic programs other than restructuring and realigning grades and school boundaries? What amounts are planned for the expansion and addition of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and comprehensive second language skills for the challenges facing our significant Hispanic population? These are the fundamental challenges in creating a world-class school district; athletic concerns are important, but they are secondary. Our tax dollars should be used primarily for improved educational programs, not excessive sports facilities.
Whether intended or not, the Board’s comments that they have the authority to increase the capital levy to accomplish THEIR objectives regardless of the outcome of the vote, at a greater cost to taxpayers, should be seen for what they are a not so subtle attempt to coerce a favorable vote. Along with me, many of my friends and neighbors take offense to such tactics. These tactics are unworthy of the Board.
In conclusion, I have looked at and studied their proposal and process. I have found it to be dismissive and divisive of our community, lacking in specificity, too heavily weighted to non-academic concerns and issues. My grade for this proposal is a resounding "F." Please vote "NO" and tell the Board to rewrite their plan!
A reader calls upon the women of Utah to stand up and make their voices heard.