If an informed and engaged electorate is vital for an Election Day’s tally to truly reflect what voters want, Tooele County School District officials may be concerned over how their $190 million bond proposal will fare on the Nov. 5 ballot.
That’s because the bond proposal for three new schools to relieve overcrowding, and for security upgrades at every current school in the district, has so far seen little public support or opposition with Election Day only six weeks away.
For example, only one citizen attended and commented during a Sept. 10 public hearing on the bond held by the Tooele County Board of Education. The citizen, a Stansbury High School teacher, said she supports the proposal because it is her hope “we can keep up with the growth and make this community even better.”
Then on Sept. 16 in Stansbury High’s auditorium, only 12 citizens attended the first of three scheduled public information meetings on the bond. After school district officials explained the bond’s need, cost and purpose, and architects showed tentative conceptual drawings, one Stansbury Park resident asked a good question: Will the school district come back and ask taxpayers for more money to staff the new schools after they’re built?
School district officials at the meeting said that won’t occur.
There are likely many more good questions citizens could and should ask to get a clearer picture of what the bond will do and how it will affect them. That picture includes $100 million for a new high school at Overlake to relieve overcrowding at Stansbury and Tooele High schools, and $50 million for a new junior high school in Stansbury Park to relieve overcrowding at Clarke Johnsen Junior High School.
Also, $30 million will be used for a new elementary school in Grantsville to relieve overcrowding at Grantsville and Willow elementary schools. The remaining $10 million will be spent on the security upgrades.
What will the average taxpayer pay over the bond’s 20-year payback? Ballot language says the property tax impact on a home valued at $250,000 would be $346 annually, and $630 annually for a business property of the same value.
But according to the school district, those same costs will drop to $128 and $233, respectively, as payments for outstanding bonds reduce over time. That is an important distinction that perhaps most voters don’t fully understand, but should before voting on Nov. 5.
The district has two more scheduled public information meetings on the bond proposal. The next one is Thursday in the Grantsville High School lunchroom, and the last is on Sept. 30 in the Tooele High School auditorium. Both start at 6:30 p.m.
Citizens who seek more information, or have a question, are encouraged to attend one or both meetings. Meanwhile, the Transcript Bulletin will continue to report on the bond proposal, which it has since it was introduced months ago. Information on the proposal is also available at tooeleschools.org.
After years of seeing successive property tax hikes, citizens owe it to themselves to know fully about the bond proposal before voting. And school district officials are acknowledged for making an ardent effort to fully inform.