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Utah Taxpayers Association Takes Positions on November Bond Proposals

Each year, your Utah Taxpayers Association reviews all of the various bond proposals floated by taxing entities around the state. Passage of General Obligation bonds can significantly affect property taxes within the entities proposing the bonds for typically 15 to 20 years.  Bonding is an appropriate way to finance capital projects for essential public facilities but Utah law requires a public vote to determine just how ‘essential’ the proposed facilities are. State General Obligation bonds require concurrence of a majority of each house in the legislature and the Governor’s signature.  Because the bonds require a vote of the people, taxes to retire bonds are not subject to Utah’s Truth-in-Taxation law. 

Years ago, taxing entities could propose special elections throughout the year to seek voter approval of bonds.  However, your Taxpayers Association was successful over the years in limiting the dates with the final result that ballot questions for bond elections can now only be held during regular November general (even numbered year) and municipal (odd numbered year) elections

Your Taxpayers Association is often  approached by many of the entities seeking bond approval  so they can present and discuss their situation and plans with us and get our support . In other cases, we contact them ourselves and gather the data that we need to form a position . In many cases Taxpayers Association staff tours existing facilities to help evaluate needs.

Here is the list of 2019 bond proposals on which the Association has taken a position of Support, Neutral, or Opposed:

Support

  • Tooele School District- $190 MM proposal to construct a new high school, junior high and elementary school as well as security upgrades. Tooele is seeing significant growth in housing and population and that is forecast to continue well into the future. In fact, Tooele School district is one of the fastest growing school districts in the nation. More facilities are needed to accommodate this growth. For more than a decade, Tooele School Board has agreed to use the most cost-effective construction methods to ensure taxpayers are not paying for unnecessary frills.
  • South Summit School District- $87 MM proposal to construct a new high school. The surrounding area is seeing robust growth in addition to the nearby Heber Valley. In order to avoid overcrowding and provide for the continued growth a new facility is needed. The old high school will remain in use for the junior high. Voters rejected a similar bond proposal two years ago in spite of support from your Taxpayers Association.  The School Board has committed to follow the most cost-effective construction methods in order to avoid unnecessary costs.

Neutral

  • Provo School District- $245 MM proposal to repair about 90% of Timpview High School that is suffering from some shifting and movement under the school, and rebuild Dixon, Wasatch and Westridge Elementary Schools, as well as security upgrades for 10 schools. Although the proposal has a large price tag, we visited Timpview High School to get a look at the shifting and movement damage and view it as a problem that may need to be corrected in the future  in order to make the school safe. The building is not currently unsafe for occupancy. 
  • Wasatch School District- $150 MM proposal to construct a new high school and elementary school. Wasatch High currently has 600 more students attending than it was originally constructed for. A new high school is needed given the massive growth the Heber Valley is seeing. That growth is forecast to continue and the current overcrowding situation is unsustainable . The proposed new high school is planned to mirror the existing ten year old Wasatch High which your Taxpayers Association criticized as a Taj Mahal when it was constructed.  Wasatch School District officials fairly point out that the high school looks as new today as when it was constructed and should last 100 years. They believe the higher cost is justified by the lower life-cycle cost of the proposed new high school. 
  • Kane School District- $23 MM proposal to construct a new elementary school. The current school is badly outdated and does not accommodate the needs of the current student population. In addition, the out buildings and pick up areas are not safe. 
  • Carbon School District- $36 MM proposal to upgrade several schools and add an addition to Carbon High School. The elementary school was built in 1936 and badly needs improvements. The high school was built in 1960 and also needs significant work done.

Opposed

  • Santaquin City- $12 MM proposal to construct a recreation and aquatics center. The Utah Taxpayers Association has always been opposed to government seeking to compete with private taxpaying business at the expense of taxpayers. If a recreation center and pool is wanted in the area, then demand should make it financially feasible for a private company to build and maintain. Taxpayers should not be burdened with subsidizing a facility that may not break even and require further subsidies.


One Response to “Utah Taxpayers Association Takes Positions on November Bond Proposals”

  1. Thomas Baxter says:

    While I understand the need for safe schools in Provo, as a fixed income property tax payer I believe that both Provo City, Utah County and the Provo School District have not adequately planned ahead for future needs. In the past 4 years my property taxes have increased by $2-300.00 per year. In one year the Provo School District wanted money to replace 3 elementary schools along with Provo High School. They are now back wanting more money to upgrade and replace a good portion of Timpview High School and address seismic issues with other structures. Seven years before they decided to replace Provo High School they renovated the football stadium. Where was the planning when they would just be vacating the old facility in a few years? Last year Provo City barley passed a bond to replace or renovate the City offices as well as police and fire facilities. One year Utah County raised taxes arguing that their previous tax assessments had not been keeping pace with rising property values in the county so they decided to catch up with another significant increase in property taxes.
    It seems to me that governmental and school entities are rationalizing the construction or renovating multiple buildings with significant annual tax increases trying to take advantage of the current positive economic climate. Where is the evidence that there was a master plan looking ahead 5-10 years down the road that anticipated these needs with fewer requests and gradual tax increases. There seems to be an assumption that the fixed income home owners will just pay up. Over time with such annual increases it is possible to be taxed right out of ones home. I also wonder whether the school district is proposing a Cadillac when a Chevy will do in terms of the amenities they add into the school building budget. Does everything have to be state of the art?

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