Tom Clyde: Retreading the Kamas school bond
Ballots for the November election were mailed this week. Park City has a contested City Council election. In the rest of the county, it’s a sleeper.
The three candidates for City Council in Kamas are running unopposed. Same in Francis. The fire district has an election. You’d think their 150% tax increase might ignite some attention. It hasn’t so far.
The big issue in the east side of the county is the South Summit School District bond. They are asking voters to approve $87 million for a new high school and upgrades to other buildings. Supporters of the bond say it will provide “21st century learning spaces,” and a “more secure high school campus.” The real issue is that we have outgrown all of the district’s facilities.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because they tried it a couple of years ago, and the bond failed. They asked for $59 million before, and voters rather firmly said, “no.”
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So, what’s changed? Well, the schools are even more crowded and construction costs are up about 20%. The plans are not materially different.
I voted against it last time around. That was a based on the reverse logic of “Field of Dreams.” The ghosts famously told Kevin Costner (a kinder, gentler Costner than we see on “Yellowstone”) that if he built the baseball field, they would come and play in his cornfield.
I figured if we didn’t build it, they wouldn’t come. It didn’t work. They came anyway, and the schools are packed to the gills.
Silver Creek Village, which for some reason isn’t in the Park City School District, is actually under construction and could be delivering students to the Kamas schools by next year. Francis is hatching new subdivisions every day. There’s no place to put the kids.
In Park City, $87 million buys two consultants’ studies, brunch, and a roundabout. And most of it gets paid by second homeowners who don’t get to vote even though they pay the bills.
In Kamas, still part of the real world, $87 million is Real Money. Between my house and the ranch (thank heaven for greenbelt tax exemption) it comes out to about half a season pass. A buck a day. I spend more than that on doughnuts. There are some who will feel it, and it hits harder because the tax base is smaller.
There is a big chunk of tax money from Promontory, which, for no obvious reason, is mostly in the South Summit School District. The second homeowners pay the full tax rate. The children of Promontory will never see the inside of a public school building, so it is the perfect situation of taxing absentee owners to pay for a service they won’t use. The children of the people who maintain the second homes in Promontory will, however, land in school, and their parents can’t afford to live in Park City. So there’s that. But it’s still a lot of money, and piled on top of the Fire District’s tax increase, the total property tax bill will go up enough to matter if it passes.
I’ll be voting for the bond this time around. The need is there, and a commitment to a solid school system says a lot about a community. So does starving the school system. Duct tape and baling wire have their place, but eventually, stuff needs to be properly fixed.
We’re beyond the duct tape stage. In a town with few other public institutions, the schools are even more important. I’m not enthusiastic about it, but it’s the right thing to do. It will take a couple of years to build the new building. During that time, the crowding issues will get even worse. By the time the new building is finished, we’ll be wondering why we didn’t build it sooner.
Passage is not a sure thing. In terms of enthusiasm, it ranks right up there with buying new tires. In a perfect world you have a blow out in the parking lot of the tire store. In reality, you replace them sooner. The yes/no bond vote doesn’t really address the greater question.
Why do we have three school districts in Summit County? Park City is exporting its workforce — and their children — to less expensive markets. That tax base ought to follow them. The growth in Kamas isn’t because the Chevron is hiring more doughnut bakers — though if new schools will keep the doughnut bakers happy, that’s reason enough to vote for it. Meanwhile, the Silver Creek Village kids will get on a bus and drive past the Park City schools on their way to Kamas. They can wave at the Hideout kids, who are headed the other way, making the loop around Jordanelle, on their nearly hour-long bus ride to Heber.
We need 21st century learning spaces, but can we at least talk about 21st century jurisdictional boundaries?
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