Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 28, 2014
No chump change

School district’s Proposition #1 can save taxpayers’ money if used as intended 

Voters will see a ballot filled with several candidates, judicial retentions, and proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution when they head to the polls in next Tuesday’s general election.

And if they have any energy left after working through all those important items, they’ll come to the end of the ballot and see something Tooele County School District officials hope voters won’t overlook, or even worse, misunderstand.

That item is called “Special Bond Election – Proposition #1.” Toss out all the required, yet opaque legal jargon and Proposition One boils down to this: Superintendent Scott Rogers and the school board say they have a better deal to pay off old debt that will save taxpayers’ money, but they need voter-approved general obligation bonds to do it.

As reported in last Thursday’s story, “Voters to decide fate of district’s request to refinance old debt,” voters will choose on Nov. 4 whether or not the school district can obtain $19.5 million in general obligation bonds to pay off an equal amount of construction debt — and pay 2.5 percent interest instead of 5 percent. The debt originates from building the Community Learning Center with lease revenue bonds. The school district owes $19.5 million on those bonds.

If voters OK Proposition One, Rogers said the district will save approximately $500,000 when the $19.5 million note is paid off in 15 years. He said the savings, which total about $33,000 per year, will be deposited into the district’s capital fund for future new construction.

“We are just replacing old high interest debt with a lower interest bond to save money,” he said. “This is like refinancing high interest credit card debt with a low interest loan.”

And why has the superintendent been pursuing the matter so fervently? He doesn’t want to be accused of “falling asleep at the wheel” by not taking advantage of every opportunity to save the district money, including refinancing debt.

But Rogers is concerned that required legal language in the ballot version of Proposition One may lead voters to think they will see an increase in their property taxes — and will vote the measure down. Even though the Tooele County Commissioners say they have nixed any plans of possibly raising taxes again in 2015, such voter reaction is understandable.

The superintendent pledges, however, that the district’s current overall tax rate levied by the school board will not increase as a result of the general obligation bond. This will be accomplished by reducing other school property taxes by the same amount as what will be added by the new bond.

Rogers said the only way voters may see a tax increase is if their property gets assessed at a higher value — but it won’t be because of Proposition One.

It’s a rare day when we endorse a candidate, amendment or proposition in an upcoming election. We feel voters make their decisions in part based on news coverage we provide on candidates and issues, not by editorial endorsement.

Yet, we feel compelled to encourage the passage of Proposition One on Nov. 4 because of probable public misperception of the proposition’s intent, and a desire to encourage the school district to save taxpayers’ money. A half a million dollars is no chump change. If what Rogers says works out as planned, Proposition One is a better deal.

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