Two nights ago I cleaned myself up and went to Stansbury High School to listen to the school board pitch the proposed education bond request we will vote for, or against, Nov. 5. I nearly had the place to myself.
Architects and engineers and other such experts used colorful Power Point presentations to extol the virtues of their high-tech designs for three new schools. All the latest bells and whistles and wizard gadgetry are to be seen everywhere, and the architecture is of the highest order with jutting angles and colorful facades, lots of glass and open courtyards for students and teachers to congregate and counsel together. And one school will enjoy majestic views of mountain vistas to the west, which will inspire students to reach for greater heights than before imagined. Or so we were told.
And all this for a cool $190 million smackers, a hundred million alone for a high school. I’m still catching my breath.
I’ll probably vote for the bond; we are busting at the seams and our kids need to be educated now more than ever and it takes big bucks to do that. But I left the meeting more worried about another lurking issue than I was about the $250 increase to my property taxes.
Superintendent Rogers made it clear that the need for bonding is the direct result of population growth. No revelation there. But what is disturbing is that after all the dust settles from new home construction and the land owners, developers and Realtors have reaped their enormous profits and gone their way, the taxpayers are stuck with the tab for these new schools. State law prohibits a school district from imposing a levy on developers to help offset new school costs. We have to go it alone. And this law comes from our state Legislature that is laden with developers and Realtors whose special interests seem so often to circumvent the public interest.
If you want a peek into the future of Tooele County, you need look no further than Salt Lake County. It’s wall to wall everything and it’s coming our way at blitzkrieg speed, large tax increases included, and we need to do something soon to protect ourselves.
Here’s what I suggest: Our planning and zoning laws need changing to prohibit high-density housing. One home per 5 acres would be reasonable.
The lack of financial responsibility for the stress on our school district budget that is caused by landowners, developers and Realtors must stop. Each of these groups should be levied for an equitable share of school construction expenses. It would be a simple matter to devise a formula for calculating that levy, and state law should be changed to allow it.
And last, efforts should be doubled to attract retail and commercial business and light industry to the county. Those entities would contribute enormously to our tax base.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not Salvation. Rather, it’s the train of Inevitable Growth. And it’s coming right at us, full speed. We can’t stop it, but we can control it if we have the will and courage to do it. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” We’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled long enough and now is the time to take charge of our county’s destiny and do what’s best for us.
If we don’t, I’ll be going to many more meetings to hear why I need to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars, again. And then again.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t have the money. Do you?
Richard Ewing Davis