The Tooele County School Board and administrators continued their Thursday night Facebook live fireside bond chats last Thursday night at 6 p.m..
School board members Camille Knudson and Maresa Manzione participated along with Lark Reynolds, business administrator and Steve West, operations director.
The school board is asking voters to approve $170 million in bonds at the Nov. 3 general election. The bonds will be used to build an elementary school in Grantsville, a junior high in the Stansbury Park/Erda area, and a high school in north Tooele City.
“Our community is growing,” said Knudson. “Families are moving in. Some schools are at or above capacity. We need new schools.”
All four participants emphasized that this bond was not the same as the $190 million bond rejected by voters a year ago.
Along with shaving $20 million off by “sharpening pencils” and using the school district’s reserve funds, board members and administrators explained why they keep saying this is the “right time” for this bond.
The school district’s assessed market value of property went up by 13% this year. That was much more than expected, according to Reynolds.
The average increase in property value for the last five years is 8.5%.
In the 2019 bond proposal, the school district conservatively projected a lower increase of property value for the first five years with very little to no increase for the remaining life of the bond. This time around the district projected an annual property value increase equal to the average of the last five years.
The higher property value allows for a lower property tax rate.
Also, bond interest rates remain at an almost historic low, according to the school district’s bond consultants, Zions Public Finance.
The district will take out the $170 million of bonds in four issuances instead of three, as was the plan in 2019. With the issuances timed to match current bonds that will be paid off.
The combination of a $20 million reduction, low bond interest rates, increased property values, and the timing of the bonds, will allow a window in 2021 to start issuing the new bonds with no net tax increase to taxpayers, according to school district officials.
“We say no ‘net’ tax increase, because if the bonds do not pass are not issued, property taxes would go down,” said Reynolds.
One viewer of the chat sent a question by Facebook asking how it could be made sure that the bonds were spent on new schools and not other expenses.
Reynold said the language of the bond requires the funds to be spent on school construction. State law also requires that the school district publish and distribute a financial plan for the bond funds.
The school district has that plan and it will be sent out as part of the required information pamphlet for the bond election,according to West.
The plan specifies that this bond is for three new schools; an elementary, a junior high, and a high school.
Any deviation from that plan requires a two-thirds majority vote of the school board following a public hearing. Otherwise, any leftover funds after the construction is done must be used to pay down the debt, according to Reynolds.
Manzione said that school district staff reports expenses related to the bonds in open public meetings
The Thursday Facebook Fireside chats will continue tonight through Oct. 8 on the school district’s Facebook page. Viewer questions are encouraged.