Friday, September 11, 2015

Comments: "Citizens" for "Better" Schools on Facebook

Regrettably, or thankfully, I don't "DO" Facebook, but some folks are promoting the $62,000,000 School (and POOL, again) Bond (good for them).  I can read it, but not comment so I will post a few responses here.
Names of posters have been removed here.  It's assumed that "Citizens for..."  is the page moderator.

Moderator:  (Re Year-Round) "It isn't a failing option as far as test scores and retention for the students. It is a very viable option. It is the parents that are moving the school districts away from the YRS option. Smaller schools are better academically and adding on only makes the number of students bigger in that building. Having smaller numbers in more schools is an academically better environment for the students. That is why the district does not want to add on and would rather build new schools. As parents we do have a choice in this and your questions are great! Thank-you!"  AND
Moderator: Just to be clear, year round school is not a long-term option because it only solves the problem of overcrowding at the elementary level (which includes TIS) but does not deal with the overcrowding at the high school or Rocky Mountain Middle School. Year round school might delay the need to bond by a few years but the school board would need to bond relatively soon for new buildings.

Response: Yes, parents DO have a choice, as do ALL taxpayers and voters.  It would have been nice if more (positive) information had been provided and discussed with the public and the viability of year-round and better utilization.  As the only presenter to the school board said - parents and teachers generally liked YRE once they learned about it and used it.  She also stated that it needs a year or two of community preparation to educate the public. For more of her comments.  
 (This is a fairly objective report posted by the School district's (paid) Social Media Manager who monitors and reports posts for the School district.)

Commenter: We moved from year round schools which we did for 7 years- my guess is the real reason parents voted to go back could stem to the nightmare it is when you have elementary kids on year round and older kids on traditional. I loved it when all my kids were year round/ we really enjoyed traveling when the rest of the world didn't and found that even in tough terms/stretches/homework loads, you could do anything for 9 weeks knowing you'd get 3 to catch up and relax.
But I would really struggle with it now having kids in all 4 schools starting next year and trying to juggle different school schedules with family life.
Response: While the school district IS proposing only to put elementary students year-round, one wonders why not provide it for ALL students and schools.  Computers are great for scheduling and it may possible to accommodate a high percentage of students in a family on the same track.   Other parents have reported that it is actually better when they are different.  It's called choice and maybe a bit more freedom to vacation, or work, while others are in school.   Four kids in school does not last forever, tax increase will probably last longer.

Commenter: then be a trend setter wasatch schools. figure it out without having us all pay more in taxes. think outside the box!!
Response: There you go, if we had opened the year-round box five years ago, there would have been little need for all the machinations that were done.   It's a 10-12 high school, no 9-12. Is fifth elementary or middle; where the Junior High, what's a Junior high, buy more land, take it off the tax roles
Commenter: The growth that is causing the need for the bond will also help pay for the bond resulting in very little if any tax increase. Every new home built increases the property tax base so the cost of running the school district is divided among more property owners. Another major reason to pass this bond now is to take advantage of historically low interest rates. If we wait we will pay dearly!!!

I don't like taxes more than anyone else but I am getting tired of the short sided and selfish mentality in this County that puts needed improvements off too long. Waiting always makes improvements cost more and makes our children suffer while they wait. Just look at how much more money it cost us to build the high school that would have been saved if the bond would have passed the first time it was on the ballot. We would have had a larger school which we now need with a pool for less than we spent because of waiting. 

Response: Oh, yes, buy now - pay later.   Are taxes generally higher in cities or small towns? Did the growth slow in 2007-8?   Is it possible it could slow again?  Is DEBT the answer to all problems?  The longer wait for the big bond payments, THEN the less it will be per home. Why not utilize that which you have already built  as long as possible - and enhance learning?   Who is selfish, the frugal and prudent taxpayer or the . . .   well, you decide? 

Commenter: Year round school will still have increased costs that will be almost as much as building new schools. Also, the high school is bursting at the seams. Most classes have about 35 students, and some have more than that. It was overcrowded 3 or 4 years ago, and has grown significantly in number of students since then. The need is critical. Let's do the right thing. 

Response: Yes, year- round WILL have increased costs and that cost is forecast to be LOWER than building.  However, the operating cost for new schools will be higher in the future, currently it's $2-3 million per school.   It appears the $800K is just the stopgap as the schools will not even be in operation for a couple of years.   The "need" is artificial now.  30% better utilization will solve it for ten years. 

Commenter:  We just don't have the money to ask the citizens to pay any more. Taxes are killing us, just say no. Let's try year around schools to use the facilities that we already have. The bond also includes a pool. I am sorry but having a pool is a luxury not part of going to school. I will not be able to support any bonds.
Commenter:  The problem with this bond proposal is that the planning is way behind in the process. The need was five or eight years ago. I'm not saying everybody had a perfect prediction of what would happen then but the students are here today and the school space is not. The bond seems like the only solution at this point, especially the only solution that can get things moving now rather than in two or three years. Regardless of if the bond passes or not, Wasatch County school District should seriously lobby local and state officials to approve the implementation of developer fees, either to pay for the school directly, or to help pay off the debt that is incurred with a bond! The developer fee actually accomplishes a multitude of purposes: the first is to provide cash for critical infrastructure. Second, it somewhat slows the flood of new residences due to added costs of developing and buying homes. And three, they improve property values. This is not currently allowed by state law, but it is allowed for all kinds of other infrastructure such as water facilities, police and fire departments, flood control facilities… Etc. It just hasn't been done yet for a school district, that does not mean that it cannot be done. As I have stated in other venues, Heber Valley is a place that should be setting the rules and taking advantage of the interest people have in this valley to develop it properly.

Amen, talk to your legislators and good look if they associated with the 'growth' industry.  In the meantime whatever happened to a public impact fee for Public Safety (re $7.8M building)?   

No comments: