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School bond on November ballot

Wednesday, October 16, 20131097 views

It’s been said, “If you build it, they will come.” And they have.

Jordan School District is bursting at the seams. To fund the anticipated additional 29,000 students expected over the next 10 years, parents have voted to consider bonding for it on the Nov. 5 ballot.

District officials are working to get the word out to the community about what they feel is the importance of supporting the bond. They have held a series of open houses across the district to answer questions. They’ve also set up a website at www.jordanbond.org to explain their position.

“We are in a really difficult situation. Growth is so dramatic, that in the future, without this bond, we are looking at additional portables in our schools, additional year-round schools. Year-round middle school is also a great possibility,” Jordan School District Superintendent Dr. Patrice Johnson, said.

The district currently uses 260 portables district wide. This is the equivalent of eight elementary schools.

The Board of Education has formed committees to examine all possible cost-saving measures, and efforts have been made to adjust school boundaries as well as utilizing year-round schedules where possible. But it’s just not enough, they say.

“To make year-round schedules cost effective, they need to be maintained for two to three years. We look at boundaries every year, as well as looking at costs. Year-round schedules can save in staff, utility and construction costs, but to go all year-round would make boundaries so large that bus costs would increase. This would create an additional tax burden. It’s cheaper in the long run to bond and build,” Jordan District spokesperson Sandy Riesgraf said.

The proposed bond is for $495 million, to be repaid over 15 to 20 years. Officials estimate that the bond will mean $10 per month for every $100,000 in home value.

School district officials hope that the bond will pay for eight new elementary schools, two new middle schools and one new high school. They hope to tear down and re-build West Jordan Elementary and West Jordan Middle School on their current sites. The list of proposed projects also includes building updates for safety, fire sprinkler updates in several schools, lighting to increase energy saving costs, and heating and air conditioning where needed.

All proposed projects must be listed on the bond to be built. Additional projects cannot be added later on.

“We have to stick to the list by law. It is a realistic list of needs, but we have to watch what the economy does. Depending on inflation, we hope to complete the entire list. This bond is very clear and open. This is the list, and we will stick to it. This board is going to be very conscious of how the money is spent. They watch it very carefully,” Riesgraf said.

According to the 2013 Annual School Construction Report by School Planning and Management, Jordan School District is consistently placing in the low end of building costs, both nationally and regionally.

Region Six PTA has pledged its unconditional support for the bond. A group known as Friends of Jordan District has also become a registered political issues committee to support the issue.

“We are a group of concerned parents trying to get information out to voters so they can get out and make an educated vote. We believe that when they understand, they will vote for the bond. We all benefit from the bond,” committee member Mike Haynes said.

Jordan School District is one of four school districts in the state with an AAA bond rating. This will allow the district to borrow money at the lowest possible rating.

“We do not buy bonds all at once,” Riesgraf said. “Taxes should stay the same the first year or go up only slightly. We do not have a schedule set for buying bonds, but they will be purchased as we start building. Right now, our interest rate is approximately 3 percent, but it may fluctuate with the economy.”

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