Politics & Government
Alpine School District announces proposed bond projects; fractured Orem City Council votes to oppose bond
Lehi voters and the rest of northern Utah County will vote on the Alpine School District’s (ASD) proposed $595 million bond in just a few short weeks.
With education on the forefront of the political scene, particularly regarding sensitive materials policy, Orem City’s potential break off from ASD and the proposed bond, Lehi voters will finally weigh in on the November ballot through Proposition 1.
ASD has announced projected bond projects, and Lehi is set to receive at least one new school and some improvements citywide. Districtwide new-build projects, if the bond is approved, will include:
– A Middle School in Eagle Mountain
– Four Elementary Schools in Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs and Lehi
– A High School in Saratoga Springs
Along with the new-build projects, several schools will see the following additions and renovations:
– Lone Peak High will receive a new multi-use facility
– Pleasant Grove High will finish the final phase of the rebuild
– American Fork High will finish the final phase of the rebuild
– Timpanogos High will get a new multi-use facility
– Orem High will get a new multi-use facility
– Merge/Rebuild An Elementary School on the seismic watch list
The district is also set to install interior door locks at all secondary schools for increased safety measures. The district will install security cameras at elementary schools along with interior locks.
“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 Stacy Bateman, who represents Lehi on the ASD Board of Education.
Community organizations have started to weigh in on the proposed bond, with the Utah Taxpayer Association taking a neutral position. The organization released the following statement.
“This will be the largest issuance of school district bond debt ever in Utah. While the amount of the proposal is staggering, at $595 million, Alpine is unique in that it is the largest school district in Utah and is experiencing rapid growth at the same time. The size of the district, combined with the many needs for new construction in the hyper-growth areas as well as renovation needs for older buildings in the more established areas of the district, combines for a large amount of taxpayer dollars needed to meet the needs of the district.
The innovative strategy by ASD of staggering the debt issuance over several years provides some protection for taxpayers that should result in less impact on the overall tax burden. Aggressive repayment of principal on previously issued debt is also making this strategy possible.
The Association believes that the statement: “the bond will not increase the tax rate” can be misleading to voters. The correct explanation of the proposal is: that without the issuance of this new debt, taxes would be lowered in upcoming years. If this debt is issued according to the plan, the overall tax burden on district taxpayers should remain approximately the same going forward.”
In an unconventional move, The Orem City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution to openly oppose the bond (Proposition 1) and encourage Orem voters to do the same. Orem’s Mayor and the three agreeing Councilmembers cited the lack of Orem projects on the project list as their reason for opposition, as well as accusing the current district of negligence in their handling of Orem schools’ seismic needs. They also are advocates for Proposition 2, which will allow Orem voters to decide on breaking off from ASD and forming an Orem-only school district.
“Drive out to Eagle Mountain, drive out to Saratoga Springs, drive out to Lehi and see these ‘Taj Mahal’s,’– incredible high schools. That’s where our money is going. Our money should stay in Orem.” said Orem Councilman Terry Peterson.