The start of school is only days away, and the Alpine School District (ASD) and its Board of Education (BOE) are as busy as ever.
With the state legislature passing H.B 374 earlier this year, school districts must remove “pornographic and indecent material” from schools and their respective libraries. The bill required districts to remove the materials in violation by September 1, but that deadline has been extended to October 1. With the deadline extension, the Board is also delaying the adoption of their new book procurement and challenge policy.
The Board anticipated a discussion and vote on the policy during the August 9 meeting but has since pulled the item from the actionable agenda and will set aside time to discuss and craft a policy during Tuesday’s work session.
“The deadline was changed to 10/1, and the committee feels postponing will be best. I am in favor of making sure we get it right. We will still have a discussion tomorrow. We just won’t pass the policy,” posted ASD board member Stacy Bateman,who represents Lehi.
The process hasn’t been without controversy as opinions vary between supporting the removal of books and others who defend keeping existing literature, despite content that is controversial to some. The board has received hundreds of public comments and is still reviewing the public input while crafting the policy.
While the BOE won’t be voting on the new book policy on Tuesday, they will vote on whether to send a $595 million bond to the voters in November. The Board’s decision to place the bond on the ballot is expected to pass unanimously, as no board members have expressed opposition during the process.
“Our business services team is pretty incredible, so this one would layer in and replace the ones [bonds] rolling off. We should not see an increase in rates. I am in favor of this bond and look forward to doing some projects our schools need. Please note that bond money can only be used for capital projects,” said Bateman in a social media post on Monday.
In a recent study conducted by ASD, the results showed that 61% of district-wide voters would support a bond if placed on the upcoming ballot. Lehi voters had the highest level of support while neighboring American Fork and Pleasant Grove were least likely to support the bond.
The survey was conducted before the Orem City Council, which elected to give Orem voters a choice between breaking off or staying in the Alpine School District.
“There are so many needs in the district. We won’t be able to get absolutely everything on this bond. If Orem forms their own district, there will be capital benefits to the rest of ASD. There will be a loss in revenue through the WPU. (27% of the tax base.) In any scenario, we still need a bond,” said Bateman, who defended her position to bond regardless of whether Orem stays or goes.
With the district set to pay off a previous bond, the new bond would take its place, resulting in no tax rate increase. Although the rate wouldn’t increase, the tax amount for property owners would increase by $87 annually based on theaverage Utah County home value (this number is based on Orem and its taxpayers staying in the district and contributing to the bond payoff).
The district hasn’t made clear its intentions for the disbursement of bond revenues and customarily chooses projects after sending the bond proposal to the ballot. Based on earlier discussions, the funds will likely be used to build seven new schools on Utah County’s west side.