OPINION: With the ASD bond failing… What next?
I was incredulous when I saw the Alpine School District bond voting results. This election was the first in Alpine School District history that the electorate turned down a bond. I recognize we live in a contentious time when political dividing lines are at extremes, and inflation has taken its toll on individual budgets. However, in a state that touts its commitment to children and their education, the bond not passing was troubling.
A bond for building and improving schools in ASD has been in the works for at least five years. The proposal was postponed two years ago because of the pandemic. The need has only increased as an unexpected influx of students has moved into the district. As a school board member for eight years, I was involved in many lengthy and complex discussions regarding the necessity of bonding for construction and school improvements. Passing bonds is the most economical way of obtaining funds for needed capital projects.
Generally, bond money can be obtained at very low interest rates. ASD enjoys a triple A bond rating. ASD officials are sensitive to property tax increases and attempt to keep the impact on citizens to a minimum. According to the Utah Taxpayers Association, property taxes will stay about the same if the bond passes. If the bond does not pass, property taxes will go down. The tax watchdog organization took a neutral stance on the bond.
No one likes taxes, but in an area comprised of many large families, school construction is a necessity. During this election cycle, I heard many citizens in Orem, Pleasant Grove, American Fork, and even northeastern Lehi complain about increasing their property taxes to fund Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain growth. When I heard these arguments, I remembered similar comments by my friends and neighbors in Lehi when Orem’s population was growing. I even felt similarly when, as a teacher at Mountain View High School in the 80s, I compared the school where I taught to Lehi High School, where my kids went to school.
At the time, Mountain View was considered the finest educational facility in the state. There were two large gymnasiums for both girls’ and boys’ teams. Lehi had one gym shared by all basketball teams, plus the drill team, band, and other groups. I worked in an area where offices were provided for teachers. No such amenity existed at LHS. Our football team practiced and played on the same field. Mountain View had a “bowl” like many colleges. Were there feelings of resentment byfellow Lehians? Oh, yes!
Citizens will always feel issues of equity in a large district like ours. Many believe our schools are too big and too elaborate and money is wasted on these facilities. There are countless suggestions by citizens to make our buildings less expensive, and many are legitimate, but the fact remains, we need more places to educate our kids.
I vividly remember a conversation with a devoted Mother who lived in Eagle Mountain. She was President of her children’s school community council and served on other committees to serve the needs of the students in her community. In our exchange, I suggested it was time for Lehi to pull out of the district. At that time, Lehi resident and State Legislature Representative Dave Cox had written and passed legislation to do this very thing. It seemed like a good thing to do until this mother said to me, “Don’t you care about my kids?” I looked at the sincerity in her eyes. She said, “When you contribute to your church do you resent that money being used to build temples in Africa or anywhere else in the world?” Her comment struck a nerve. I went home and spent much time reflecting and self-evaluating. “Yes,” I cared about her kids, and “No,” I didn’t care what the church did with my money. It was a wake-up call for me and led me to realize all kids need good schools. All parents want what is best for their children, and selfish motives are not consistent with what I have been taught my whole life.