If a bond election were held today, a measure with a tax impact of up to $55 per year for the average home owner, it would receive a majority support.
But, if lunchroom expansion and artificial turf are priority projects, the school district would need to make a strong case to convince the electorate.
That’s the conclusion of a survey of Tooele County voters completed by a consulting firm for the Tooele County School District in preparation for a possible November 2019 bond election.
The Tooele County School Board heard the results of a random sample survey of 400 voters designed to evaluate general perceptions about the school district and gauge support for potential capital projects during its meeting Tuesday night at the school district office.
The survey was conducted by Baker Tilly, a Chicago-based advisory, tax and assurance firm. The poll was designed to be representative of Tooele County voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%, according to Don Lifto, a director with Baker Tilly, who specializes in helping school districts plan and execute school tax elections.
The initial response from voters when asked if they favor or opposed an increase in local property tax to build new schools and make improvements to existing schools showed 47% of those polled said they would favor an increase, 37% said they would oppose an increase, and 16% said they were undecided.
After being informed about potential bond costs and projects, support for a tax increase for school capital projects rose to 51%.
To gauge the tax climate of the community, pollsters asked voters if they agreed or disagreed with the statement: I would never vote for a tax increase. With 20% of those polled saying they would never vote for a tax increase, which is consistent with the nationwide response to that question, Lifto said the tax climate in Tooele County was “normal.”
Support for the bond issue waned as the price tag increased.
At a proposed $60 annual increase in property tax level, 57.2 percent of those polled said they were likely to support the bond. At $120 per year, support dropped to 35.6 percent and at $180 per year, support dropped to 24.5%.
When asked for their reaction to specific projects that may be included in a bond, voters pooled showed the most support for security upgrades with 69% saying they would be likely to support security upgrades.
An expansion of the Stansbury High School lunchroom garnered 32% support and artificial turf upgrades for high school athletic fields was supported 30% of the polled voters.
Support for a new high school in Tooele City, a new junior high school in Stansbury Park, a new elementary school in Grantsville, a new swimming pool at one of the new schools, and a welding shop at Stansbury High School ranged from 51% to 54%.
In looking at support for a bond for schools by school board districts, the largest support, at 64.5%, was in School Board District #6, which includes Erda and Stanbury Park. The lowest level of support, 41.7%, was in School Board District #2, which is on the southeast side of Tooele City, including Tooele City’s east bench.
To gauge the overall impression of Tooele County schools, the pollsters asked responders to give the school district a letter grade. The response was: 10% A, 38% B, 24%C, 9% D, 3% F, and 16% with no opinion.
The grade results were generally inline with nationwide results for local school grades, with a slightly lower proportion of A grades and a higher proportion of B grades, according to Lifto.
Quality of instruction was the top reason cited behind the grades offered by the polled voters, according to Lifto.
When they were asked if Tooele schools are safe, 69% of surveyed voters said they strongly agreed or agreed that Tooele Schools are safe.
The school district is gathering public input before it makes a decision about putting a bond for new schools in front of voters on the November 2019 ballot.
A high school in the Tooele area, a junior high in Stansbury, and an elementary in Grantsville have been identified by the school board as the most pressing issues facing the district.
Enrollment reports from the start of school in the fall of 2018 showed Stansbury High School at 142% of ideal capacity and Tooele High School at 137% of ideal capacity.
Clarke N. Johnsen and Tooele Junior High schools were at 100% and 133% of their ideal capacity, respectively, at the start of the 2018 school year.
The school district bought property for a new high school west of the Home Depot store and property for a new junior high school south of Stansbury High School on Bates Canyon Road with funds from bonds approved by voters in 2015.
A site for a new school in Grantsville hasn’t been identified yet.
Other projects under consideration for the potential 2019 bond include school-building security upgrades, replacing grass with artificial turf on the high school athletic fields, adding a swimming pool to one of the new school buildings, and expanding the lunch room and adding a welding shop at Stansbury High School.
The total estimated costs for the potential bond project options range from $150 million to $190 million.