Editorial: Jordan bond is necessary, but it's not a blank check
Even the Utah Taxpayers Association, which sees few bond proposals it can endorse, stipulates the need for more classroom, gymnasium, cafeteria even hallway space and safer, more modern schools in the Jordan School District.
It's indisputable. The older kids in most schools are not even allowed to use backpacks because with that added bulk the crowds in the hallways wouldn't be able to move at all. The number of portable classrooms has reached the limit of their practicality, and the lack of space has become detrimental, not only to the comfort and convenience of students and teachers but also to students' learning.
To begin to address the current overcrowding and prepare for an expected influx of more than 12,000 new students in the coming decade, the district and Jordan School Board have put together a bond proposal of $495 million. While setting a state record for the amount of money being requested over a five-year period, the bond is necessary, and we believe voters should pass it on Nov. 5. Then they should demand district officials spend as little as possible.
Expected to be the first of two such bonds, this one would pay for eight new elementary schools, two new middle schools and one new high school. In addition, West Jordan Elementary and West Jordan Middle School would be torn down and rebuilt at their present sites. The bond would also provide air conditioning for all schools that don't have it, and seismic and safety renovations.
The list seems reasonable, considering that so many Jordan schools are bursting at the seams now and new subdivisions just keep popping up. Impact fees on new construction would be a reasonable way to help the district fund its phenomenal growth, but legislators won't even discuss that option.
So the bond is inevitable. But the school board and district administrators should not feel they have a mandate to borrow and spend the full amount of the bond if voters agree to make it available. They have a responsibility to keep the ultimate burden on property owners as small as possible
As proposed, the owner of an average home in the five cities that comprise the district would pay a maximum of $26 a month, about $300 per year, to pay off the bond. That's a substantial boost in a homeowner's mortgage payment. And businesses would pay much more.
Before starting construction, the district should investigate all possible cost-cutting measures and adopt the most effective ones. In addition, it should utilize school buildings year-round. That may involve adopting a form of trimester system for middle and high schools.
Unprecedented growth demands innovative solutions.