Friday, October 09, 2015

Bursting at the Seams?

The School Bond proposal points out that enrollment is growing in the district (as it has for years) and we need a bond for schools because of that growth.    Given that proposition, it seemed logical to determine what the actual capacity of each school was and how close we are to "full."   

(Addendum 10/9): After another request for school capacities AND submitting the compiled capacities below, the District finally responded    "The capacities in the schools you have supplied are reasonably accurate except J.R. Smith, which is 750 (when the addition was completed in 2006)."  If so, the the numbers in the next paragraph would be 90%/83%/78%)  The school district also maintains that the YRS plan they are using ONLY increases effective capacity by 25%, which would still be an increase of 1660 - nearly the capacity of the two proposed schools)

Click here for an School Enrollment Calculator, to allow YOU to predict the growth and incoming Kindergarten enrollment, based on entered 2104 enrollment figures.

First, the ANSWER, Wasatch School District is only at 89% of total capacity, 82% if portable classrooms are included.   Even stranger, the 'overcrowded' elementary schools are at 76% capacity, again not including portables. 
  • JR Smith was expanded for an additional 250 students, in 2006
  • HVE added 8,000 sq ft in 2012, for 100 students. 
  • Elementary schools are K-5, the effective enrollment could be 50 or so LESS, as kindergarten is half day. 
  • The 2004 report noted  "This past year, by far the largest increase in the District rolls (sic) occurred in the kindergarten age group." In 2014, kindergarten showed a large DECREASE. 
  • The "North Campus has an enrollment of about 25, reportedly with room for 100. 
  • At one time the old North School had classroom space. 
  • Year Round School utilization could increase the effective capacity of the district to about 8,800, without considering the portables. (9,600 with)
  • The proposed two new schools would increase the capacity to 9,218 with portables.

Now, the explanation of how the capacity numbers were found/determined:
That information was rather difficult to find.  By comparison our neighbors in Duchesne placed that information WITH their proposal.  An internet search found a new 'transparency' for School district Capital Outlay Reports showing school construction records back to 2004.

Only two WSD schools are new since 2004, the High School . . . .

Friday, October 02, 2015

Wasatch School Enrollment by Grade

USOE figures, green elementary totals are adjusted to reflect half day kindergarten for 1/2 the students.  (reportedly half of kindergarten students attend a full day ???).    It is very difficult to find actual school capacity figures in Wasatch School District)

       HVE     MID          RS       OM        total
K 122 100 99 99 420
1 141 111 98 124 474
2 156 117 95 128 496

3 117 116 93 102 428
4 141 113 102 121 477

677 557 487 574 2295

616 507 438 525

5 494

6 422


7 494

8 460


9 498

10 439

11 464

12 381


1782 1 6 89 1782


School Vanity Survey

During their 'contemplation' of the school bond, the school district spent $12,000 for a School Bond Survey to "Assess quality of education at Wasatch County schools" and to verify what they already knew they wanted – that adding a pool to the bond would help the $62 million bond pass.

It appears a bit of bias may have been used to achieve the desired results.   On page 3 of that survey, this line appears: “Results were weighted by age to align with population base.” In the results, we find that the 'older' demographic was less favorable to the bond than the younger respondents. 

On the last page of the survey we find that 36% of those polled had no “Children in Home” - could that possibly be the 'age' group needing to be realigned? 

On the same page, it is learned that 16% of those polled self reported they were “employed by the school district.” With about 700 employees, is that 16% of the voting population?   Not even close! Why no 'realignment' for THAT demographic?  Might employees have a bias in favor of the bond? 

Similarly, Daniel residents (the location of  the proposed new elementary school) represented 2% of those polled, but Daniel has 4% of the population.  No correction there either. 

On page 8, in response to the question "Q13. From what you know or have heard, are overcrowded schools and classrooms a problem in the Wasatch County School District?" 50% reported it was a problem.  Why are they asking the question? - a bit of softening up push polling?   Proposing crowding, then providing the solution - more buildings.

Another survey inconsistency, 79% felt building maintenance was “good,” but only 49% thought the buildings were in good condition. (pg 9)   Why are they even asking the question? - a bit of softening up push polling:   Questioning conditions, then asking do we need more buildings.

There's an old adage, 'you get what you pay for.' It appears the District was successful. For those “voting against the bond (without pool),” 49% gave the reason “Want Pool Included as Well.”

So apparently the school board got the results they wanted, ignored the voice of the people in last year's vote, and opted to add the pool for a perceived better chance of approval by pandering to another interest group.

But as the pollster opined in the survey presentation to the board, 'you'll have to work hard to get it passed,' so their multi-faceted campaign is proceeding - in earnest.

Do your research, taxpayers and voters! Remember that 65% of those polled felt the school district was “probably or definitely (14%) spending tax money responsibly” (???)   Click on "School" on the right for a history of commentary - for years.    The 49.33% property Tax increase, has allowed  an abundance of funds since 2008.

"A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of voters under the guise of conducting a poll."

Thursday, October 01, 2015

New Election LAW concerning Influencing Bond Elections

Some new (actually the same as before with minor correction) election law in effect this year, prohibits a public entity from spending public money to influence a bond election.  

This IS NEW law:  It prohibits the USE of a public entity's Email, (for example an email address)  to influence a bond election. - and has a $250 civil penalty attached.

If, perchance, you receive any emails, using a email address,  "to advocate for or against a ballot proposition."   (aka, Vote FOR, or AGAINST, the School building bond), THAT could be a violation of Utah Code 20A-11-1205.
Anyone who has seen, or received, any such email might consider reminding the sender of the law or forward the suspect email to the County Clerk for action, referencing, Utah Code 20A-11-1205. 

Effective 5/12/2015
20A-11-1203. Public entity prohibited from expending public funds on certain electoral matters.
(1) Unless specifically required by law, and except as provided in Section 20A-11-1206, a public entity may not make an expenditure from public funds for political purposes or to influence a ballot proposition.
Effective 5/12/2015
20A-11-1204. Criminal penalty.
Each public official who violates Section 20A-11-1203 is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

Effective 5/12/2015
20A-11-1205. Use of public email for a political purpose.
(1) Except as provided in Subsection (5), a person may not send an email using the email of a public entity, for a political purpose or to advocate for or against a ballot proposition.

(2) The applicable election officer shall impose a civil fine against a person who violates Subsection (1) as follows:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Proposed School Buildings - Cost Comparisons

     Recent Utah code has required more transparency in school construction costs this year.  Each School District must submit an Annual Capital Outlay Report.  This year  data from 2004-14 has also been submitted - click here.

      Below are some cost comparisons for 'contemporary projects' to Wasatch's proposals.  Wasatch schools do NOT include LAND costs, the remainder generally do.  School site says "*Costs for all projects include architectural fees, construction, contingency, and furniture, fixtures, and equipment."
  (Land for WSD middle was $2 Million, for Daniel Elementary about $1 Million.)

       Draw your own conclusion but, generally, the only school near the suggested per sq.ft cost being proposed was the 2009 Wasatch High!

cost sqft
per sqft per student
Wasatch 2009 Wasatch HS $69,532,638 320,000 2,000 $217 $34,766
Proposed 2016 Middle $33,000,000 142,000 1,200 $232 $27,500

2016 Elementary $18,500,000 79,040 800 $234 $23,125
Alpine 2014 Black Ridge $14,775,948 81,491 1,032 $181 $14,317

2014 Dry Creek $16,405,109 77,907 1,032 $211 $15,896

2013 Frontier Middle $29,936,515 174,175 1,590 $172 $18,828
Canyons 2013 Butler Middle $30,492,495 177,000 1,781 $172 $17,121

17 Schools
Average                           $19,178,735       122,489    1,004    $157    $19,106
For schools considered, to obtain the above figures, see below:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Education in Digitized Schools

Wasatch is now a few years into Digitized Education.  Are the new school plans taking that into consideration?

$5.7 million spent - so far. Details HERE     Before more 'bricks and mortar' these question needs to be answered:
  • If digital learning is the future of education, is there a possibility of a need for different type of physical facility? Or do we simply replicate the past?
  • Will more students be capable of learning at home, or on their on time? Is it possible lecture time is on its way out?
  • Are we analyzing digitized learning to find the most efficient way to use it? Do we have results of how it is succeeding? Should we WAIT before spending $62 Million? Review this article "As districts design and remodel school buildings, they are working on a belief that classrooms should mirror the workplaces of today and the future"
New Jersey Education Department
Districts across the nation are implementing and evaluating a variety of approaches that allow students ubiquitous access to computing resources for teaching and learning. These approaches have been referred to as anywhere, anytime learning, one-to-one computing, laptop learning, or 24/7 access. In as much as the names differ, so do the possible approaches to achieving ubiquitous computing for the range of pre-K through high school students. The purchasing, funding, and dissemination strategies differ as do the computing devices, software alternatives, and network access.
The traditional classroom with rows of desks, a schedule of 50-minute classes, and curriculum consisting of memorization of discrete facts no longer aligns well with this vision of the emerging learning landscape. Instead, public education needs to embrace spaces that are flexible and promote group and collaborative efforts; schedules that allow for engaged, project-based learning; and curriculum that encourages interdisciplinary and cross-curricular research and exploration.

Digitization of Classrooms
Classes will be self paced and conclude with interactive assessments that measure students’ ability to find and use online resources to answer probing questions.
Before then we, as teachers, need to remember that the best way to educate students today is not the same way that we learned when we were students.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Those Who Do Not Learn From History . .

As we contemplate this $62 Million bond for two new schools and a POOL  (closer to $80,000,000 total with interest), consider the possibility of  'overruns.'    History may offer some good experience to learn from.

Here's a bit of fiscal history for the school district:
   2008-9 budget shows $23M for high school - funding source unknown 
The Utah Legislature had requested a performance audit of school building construction, 21 School Districts were studied. While the report did not name the individual districts audited, it was quite clear that the one school which was highlighted as "the most expensive high school being built during our review period." was right here in Heber.  Pertinent excerpts can be found here., or check out the complete 2008 Utah Legislative Audit on School Building Construction

For those new in the District AND for those with longer memories, you may want to review the old North School History (aka Wasatch Education Center, now)  Check this 1998-2004 History

For Fiscal History, it is also appropriate to look at Budgets.   Try this from 2013 
How about the Football Stadium at $3,500,000 plus?   Here's a brief budget overview of budgets from 2004 to 2013 comparing revenues to enrollment year by year.
2005 vs. 2013 TOTAL revenue79.4%
2005 vs. 2013 gen fund 71.5%

See the post below about property tax receipts which were over the School Budget (again.) Here's how they handled the surplus in a 'get-away' meeting on 24 Apr 2013:

Daniels Summit, recording part 1- WCSD Daniels Summit Lodge Meeting 042413 A– local school district funding 101, 32:30 min. into recording business administrator talks about total dollars for 2013 budget is $1.5 mil better than expected. 37:00 min into recording school board compares spending taxpayer’s money to doing drugs “Just say no”. 37:30 into -All total expenses. 40:00 min into- better fiscal situation than last year. 41:00 min. supt. introduction to digital conversion. Digital conversion presentation by secondary curriculum director, Paul Sweat. $1 million for next (1) year, 6th and 7th grades! following years, high school conversion.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Overtaxation OR 'Community' reserves?

Once again in 2015, the School District collected an extra $1.6 million over budget.   2014, 2013
Don't worry, it will all be (or has been) spent.  (School is emphasized here as the largest tax recipient, and they want to bond for more.)
(For older school budget analyses, click here)

And all of the other property tax recipients also receive windfalls. For example:
County $502K, 5.98%;       Heber $35K, 3.2%;    Midway $17K, 2.5%;       Fire $77K, 5.5%
         Would any entity consider reducing taxes one year because of this continuing overtaxation?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Year-Round School Websites

The Wasatch School District apparently will not be providing any information of Year-Round Education - but merely "threatens" its use - if the $62 Million school bond fails      Here are just a few of the multitude of sites discussing Year-Round Schools, in no particular order.

WCSD Promotional Website 'Citizens for Better School' - (but buried deeply in a July 9th post.)

WCSD Social Media Manager, Melissa Campbell's July 9 report on the school board presentation by Rosemarie Smith, Provo principal with ten years of experience with year-round schools.
The interview with Rosemarie Smith is one data point out of others that will be studied as the board seriously studies year round schools.”    Comment: That serious study apparently was postponed as soon as she finished her presentation and answering questions so the Board could get down to the more serious of getting the $62 Million bond passed. Listen to the complete hearing here.
Provo School District switched half of their elementary schools over to year round schools back in the 1990s for two primary reasons (1) to improve scores and enhance learning and (2) for the cost of one school, three school buildings are saved.”

Utah Schools 2012   
Granite:     "The district began year-round schools about 20 years ago during a high growth period and it is estimated that over the years the decision saved the district $25 million in administrative costs and another $80 million in schools that weren't built, district spokesman Ben Horsley said.
But in recent years, the number of students in the district has stabilized at around 67,000 students, Horsley said. If the district had elected to build more facilities and keep the traditional schedule, students today would be attending half-empty schools."
Jordan:    "In Jordan, 19 year-round elementaries have saved the district from building 13 additional schools, spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said. At an average construction cost of $16 million per school, the year-round format has saved taxpayers more than $200 million."

The California Department of Education’s Year-Round Education Program Guide, for instance, highlights some cost savings of year-round education:
  • Avoided Costs: capital outlay for additional facilities; avoided extra‐site operation and staffing, including classified, certificated, and administrative personnel, furniture, supplies and

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.

HL&P Commercial Rates

While HL&P raised residential rates across the board by 6% (including the monthly base charge), the commercial rates are presented as a 6% in each "class."
However, the monthly bills show a large variety of results.  The Cost of Study analysis reports small commercial (about 1,000 accounts) example changes of -26% to -7% (Lower rates).  For medium (120), increases of 7 to 12%; and Large Commercial (21) all at 7%, or so.   They failed to seriously consider suggestions from the public to correct the inequities.

However here are a few examples of specific accounts provided by HL&P.  NO large Commercial examples were provided (to protect the identity of the 21 users)



Monthly Usage kWH Average demand kW Peak demand kW Monthly Base Charge Energy - first 500 kWh Energy -next 500 kWh Energy - all addditional kWh Total Base Charge Energy - first 10,000 kWh Energy - all add'l kWh Demand Charge per kW Total % change vs. current rate
med 840 1.17 64 $6.50 $74.60 $52.25 $(12.78) $120.57 $15.20 $50.74
$640.00 $705.94 486%
med 960 1.33 49 $6.50 $74.60 $52.25 $(3.20) $130.15 $15.20 $57.98
$490.00 $563.18 333%
small 454 0.63 1.15 $6.50 $74.60 $(4.81) $(43.63) $32.66 $8.00 $35.41
$10.24 $53.65 64%
small 433 0.60 4.62 $6.50 $74.60 $(7.00) $(45.30) $28.80 $8.00 $33.77
$41.12 $82.89 188%
small 1,120 1.56 3 $6.50 $74.60 $52.25 $9.59 $142.94 $8.00 $78.00 $5.52 $26.70 $118.22 -17%
small 974 1.35 4.95 $6.50 $74.60 $49.53 $(2.08) $128.55 $8.00 $75.97
$44.06 $128.03 0%
small 1,260 1.75 3.96 $6.50 $74.60 $52.25 $20.77 $154.12 $8.00 $78.00 $11.96 $35.24 $133.20 -14%
small 2,923 4.06 2.27 $6.50 $74.60 $52.25 $153.65 $287.00 $8.00 $78.00 $88.46 $20.20 $194.66 -32%

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The STEALTH $62 Million School Bond - YOUR TAX Increase

As the annual County Tax Notices did not include the effects of the proposed $62 MILLION School Building Bond, here is an example of what you can expect for your property TAX, if the bond appears on the ballot in November and passes.  (Update:the school board DID approve the bond to be voted on THIS year - through a mail-in ballot.)

Public Meeting Notice: "on August 18,2015, the Board of Education (the “Board”) of the Wasatch County School District, Utah (the“District”), adopted a resolution (the “Resolution”)"

It is uncertain at this time whether taxes will change in 2016 or 2017. (Update: if passed, taxes WILL increase next year.) 

Approval of this $62,000,000 proposed bond:

  • Will increase your school tax bond (debt) burden by over 60%, and
  • Will increase your total school taxes by about 15% (for 2/3 or your total property Tax)
  • AND increase your TOTAL property tax bill by about 10%

If you would like to compute YOUR new taxes go to this link to determine your own increased TAX burden.
  • Enter YOUR 2015 Property Value and taxes in the GREEN boxes 
  • Enter YOUR School taxes in the YELLOW boxes for 2014 & 2015 
  • This blog will reflect the most recent entry.
Also please note:
  • After a “truth” in taxation hearing Summer 2016 – the new building operating tax would probably begin BEFORE new buildings are finished.  
  • NO expenses appear to have been budgeted yet for modification of OLD pool area (= more $$$$)
  • If the bond does NOT pass, the School District has 'promised' to implement better utilization of the existing schools - at a MUCH lower cost.

Heber Light Proposed Rate Increase

Update: The rate increase WAS approved at a postponed  August meeting on 2 Sept.  As a result of some data supplied it appears some commercial users may get increases of up to 400%, while others may get a reduction.  All residential users will get a 6% increase.   The rate increase will occur in  the next billing cycle.

A word to the wise, it may be very appropriate to carefully check your bills.  One user recently found his residential account had been billed in error for several YEARS
*************        *******************
Heber Power Board Members and Heber City Council

As this epistle is too detailed for presentation at the Public Hearing, I'm sending it to the decision makers (Board) in the hope that you will take it under consideration in your decision on the rate increase.
My two major concerns are raising residential rates and the possible reduction in larger commercial, that may not be offset by necessary Peak Power purchases. A minor concern is also the lack of time based rates and its affect on peak power.
At last year's Rate Increase hearing, Mr Pender talked about the concept of “Cost of Causation.” means that those who cause the utility to incur its costs should be responsible for payment of such costs.” pg 4, COS Study
The imposition, or continuation, of a service charge further hurts those least able to pay bills – the low residential user. But that IS being addressed somewhat, relatively, with the new proposed rates.Removing it or reducing it, with a per kwhr adjustment, might be a better alternative to an increase.
The Board decision to increase impact fees from 40% to 60% was a step in the right direction, in my opinion. I believe last year 75% was recommended.
That does mean, however, that 40% (rather than 60%) of the 'caused' cost burden must be still be borne by the remaining current ratepayers. While this was a good decision, it appears that this proposed rate increase may further the inequitable burden on the residential ratepayer, rather than those who have benefited from the past lower impact fees.
Last year's rate increase presentation used 'examples' showing a standard 4.5% for all users. A closer look showed that not to be true. Smaller commercial faced a larger relative burden that larger commercial. That appears to have been corrected in this year's proposal. All small commercial seems to be getting a rate REDUCTION. This is probably a positive step, for the existing 1185 small businesses, who may have been beneficiaries of the lower impact fees of the past.
It appears that an original 4.5% residential increase has been increased to 6% for all nearly 10,000 users. This does seem strange to me as one of the avowed reasons for municipal (user owned) utilities is lower rates for the 'owners' (municipalities and their residents and taxpayers). The supposed advantage of lower impact fees was encouragement for

An Open Letter to the Wasatch School Board

(In case you missed it the Wasatch School Board will, in all likelihood, approve a bond election for $62 Million in new school buildings, here's a recent Email to the Board recommending an alternative, some editing done, links and highlighting done)

An Open Letter to the School Board

Dear School Board Members

I took the opportunity to listen to the School Board study session (July 7, 2015) on Year Round Education, the Provo principal, Rosemarie Smith gave a great presentation!!!  She pointed out the pros and cons and clearly stated the #1 reason for YRE was "enhanced learning."

++++(More in depth report here, (regrettably you need to scroll to July 9 to find it, amongst the other mainly pro building propaganda) from Melissa Campbell, WCSD Media Manager, with comments from others)+++   "Mrs. Smith recommended that at least one year before the switch (and preferably two) the district should:
1. create a committee of principals who would be involved in the switch to lay groundwork for the massive amount of planning
2. hold cottage meetings around the community to explain how the year round schedules would work and how it would affect families with students in the schools
3. meet with teachers
4. meet with district and then school based PTA groups
5. identify community members favorable to year round schools and help them be parent leaders in implementing
6. send out newsletters"   

The only previous Board discussion on this viable alternative was apparently about 5 minutes in a work minute, wherein a board member reportedly stated 'teachers and parents are not happy with year round education.'   (which effectively ended the discussion)

Professional Educator Smith, with her ten year YRE experience emphasized the need to “educate” the public on the value, and efficacy, of YRE. This has NOT been done in Wasatch County. Without that explanation, the lack of accurate information devolves into emotion and a reluctance to accept potentially advantageous, and positive, change.

She also went to great lengths discussing the scheduling flexibility and its acceptance by both parents and teachers. She further elaborated on the virtual elimination of time to get students “back on task” after the long summer vacation, which greatly enhance retention and learning

Within the last few years, WSD adopted education digitization with little public discussion, at an expense of millions of taxpayer dollars. That computerized system has the capability, and possible requirement, for a new evaluation of school structures, to allow even more student learning flexibility and learning possibilities. This may, in fact, reduce the need for brick and mortar as a few, or many, students may be able to use an alternative educational method through computers.

As the website states you are only contemplating a need for a bond?,” and you are now seeking “Citizen Input on Facilities Bond,” I would strongly encourage a deeper public discussion before attempting to pass a $62 million bond. YRE could greatly extend the time in which new buildings are truly “needed.” 
On a companion issue, I believe your survey results may be slightly awry. The survey report states "Results were weighted by age to align with population base" Checking the vote in those demographics suggest that would create a more favorable vote. 

But no weighting was done for 16% school employees (16%, what is the actual percentage of voters, maybe 5%), or geographic (unincorporated county accounts for 31 %, but the poll response appears nearer to 10%. The town of Daniel, where a new school is proposed, received half representation in the Survey
The choice is really quite simple:
  • a new $62 million bond,
  • with $850K in increased taxes for operations,
  • Plus a large tax increase for debt payment and interest ($3-$4 million per year?),
  • and the status quo, OR . . . . 
  • "optimizing the use of existing buildings,"
  • with a tax increase of 'only' $765K, and
  • the “Enhanced Learning” reported by Rosemarie Smith,
  • with vastly greater scheduling flexibility!!!
Yes, Wasatch County is growing, but remember the 2008 economic turn-down. A recurrence is not beyond a possibility.   More DEBT is NOT fiscal responsibility! 
A new mail-in off year election is not the time for experimentation with such an immense decision.