School District asking voters to approve $185 million bond for new schools

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School District is asking voters to approve a bond allowing the district to borrow up to $185 million for the purpose of building new schools and renovating existing facilities. The bond, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot as Proposition 9, is not expected to raise taxes for most homeowners for the first four years after it is enacted.

“For a normal household, it will simply extend the taxes you currently pay through 2020,” Larry Bergeson, superintendent for the Washington County School District, said. Bergeson said that because old bonds are beginning to expire, the new bond shouldn’t change the property tax rate by very much. In fact, some homeowners will see their property taxes decline.

For example, a Washington County resident who owns a $225,000 home will see their property taxes decrease from 2015-2017, and an average increase of only $17.31 per year from 2018-2020, according to the school districts projections. After that, the tax rate is expected to decrease again.

The proposed bond is critical to the health of the community, Bergeson said. Washington County is growing yet again, and as the population swells, the school district must expand facilities to accommodate the projected influx of students. Over the next 15 years, Bergeson said, enrollment in the school district is expected to increase by nearly 7000 students.

Even if the population growth in Washington County doesn’t meet current projections, there are already enough students currently enrolled in local elementary schools to push the existing middle and high schools beyond their current capacity. If the proposition passes, the school district will issue bonds, as needed, to build new schools to meet this demand, and to expand and renovate current facilities over the next 15 years.

The bonds will only be issued as needed, said Bergeson. If the projected growth does not take place, the school district will not issue the bonds.

If the proposition fails, the school board will be forced to take unpopular measures to accommodate the growing student body, such as year-round schooling, split sessions, more portable classrooms, and increased class sizes. These solutions would create many difficulties for many families with multiple children. Some children will be on break while others are attending class, or one child may end up with a morning session, from 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., while another child may be scheduled in the afternoon, from 1 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

“We can’t afford not to pass it,” Bergeson said. He recently met with the St. George Chamber of Commerce, and he said that the business community recognizes that the quality of the school system is vital to maintaining economic growth. “The first thing that people look at, when considering to move to a new place, is what the educational system looks like.

“St. George is growing,” Bergeson said. “We need to have the financial capabilities to provide for the needs of our students.”

Proposition 9 will appear on the November 5 ballot. Absentee ballots can be obtained by calling the county clerk’s office or by visiting the state’s voting information website.

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  • James Thorne October 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Please vote NO. The housing market is shot, there are no jobs here. There is absolutely no reason to keep and or raise any property taxes. The only people moving here are very low income. How can they say they need more schools when the area is dying!

    • Scot October 22, 2013 at 12:39 am

      The area is growing. Check out the numbers for yourself. If you think the area is dying you don’t get out much. Call the city office and ask them.

  • Gunther October 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I’m sure a lot of thought and planning went into this proposal prepared for the voters this November. I’m wondering why this was first introduced to the public just 3 weeks ago. Nobody I’ve talked to had even heard of this proposed bond issue until then too. I’m voting NO just out of principle that they waited so long to make this public. Issues like this need more time for the public to digest instead of the 5-6 weeks given with this proposal. Is it just me, or do we really need “another” high school? Can’t they manage the money they receive now to repair and keep other schools up to standards? Isn’t there federal money being supplied because the district has accepted Common Core? Just a few of the many questions out there to be discussed.

    • Scot October 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

      The schools are public. Go to a school, check in, and go see how packed the classes are. It is that easy.

  • Steve October 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    There should be a better way to get funds for schools besides taxing just everyone that owns a home. There are so many of us that have Paid thousands over the years in taxes for schools that do not even have kids. The article states it would burden families with multiple kids in school. Well maybe the families that are reaping the tax credit benefits with all of those kids should get taxed more than the rest. Do families that rent not have children in school? Another option that Utah could do is to have a state lottery like most of the states in this country.

    • Scot October 22, 2013 at 12:42 am

      I agree with you on other tax revenue. Why not a sales tax on goods in Washington County? Even the tourists would be contributing to the local education.

  • Scot October 22, 2013 at 12:38 am

    I am voting YES because I care for our children’s education. The class sizes in here are already outrageous. I looked it up online and Utah ranks 32nd for amount of paycheck that goes to education in the country. Steve, most citizens of states pay for quality educations and are not islands. Utah spends last per pupil in the country. Look it up. Educating our children is what is going to get us out of this mess, not denying them the education they need. There are always people who will do anything to justify penny pinching instead of making our kids’ futures better. I will be ashamed if it doesn’t pass. Maybe we can cram more kids into classrooms in this district. Lets just move 40 desks into classrooms. I received a great education in this district. Why don’t the kids deserve the same? I just don’t see how you can go wrong investing in our children. I can see a lot go wrong if we don’t.

    • Sports October 22, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Bull! Didn’t you read the article about the tax increase? Most of it was about sports, Parents can pay for their own kids’ sports. Why should I care if their girls want to wear boody shorts and hit a volleyball? Why should I care if the boys want to wear shoulder pads and act like every girl wants him? Parents can pay for those activities.

  • Craig October 22, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Why not tax the parents of children in public schools? Why should the childless homeowners pay more? Why should elderly homeowners pay more? This is Another reason why Utah needs a lottery instead of our $$$ going to AZ. and ID for lottery tickets. Maybe the rocks in Gary’s hat will persuade him.

  • Ti October 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    The alternatives to passing this bond are reasonable, albeit a step from conventional. School buildings are left idle during summers and year-round school sessions should be considered. Let’s put the current school buildings to full use. Think about it, $185 million? This is a blank check without seriously considering the options.

  • Separate School and State October 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I will be voting NO because monopoly governments should not be in the indoctrination education business.

    But more than that, this $185 million bond proposal appears on the eve of early voting with no community discussion? A clear sign of the bond’s backers’ (which include the financial institutions and construction contractors that get a cut) attempt to sneak one by voters.

    And with all the innovation that’s happening with online/open schools, the bond shows an effort to build empires rather than indoctrinate educate children.

    Finally, do we really need more government school administrators sending young women home because their hair color is too unnatural?

  • Deborah November 1, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Voting YES is the right thing to do. Our children and teachers need adequate buildings. This is nothing excessive. The schools will not be built if there is not a need. It will not be a financial burden on anyone since another bond is expiring, so it will phase in as the old one is phasing out, with some years with lower taxes and a few years of a slight increase before they go down again. This is how we pay for schools, and we will need more schools in the near future. Every generation helps the upcoming generation, who down the road will do the same.

  • Craig November 1, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Step 1: STOP having so many children
    Step 2: SUPPORT the ones you do have and stop relying on others.
    Step 3: See Steps 1 and 2.

    Those of you who belong to religions where you tithe to your church faithfully need to stop that BS.
    TITHE to your FAMILY FIRST. Period. Your children need it more than your church. If your pastor or bishop has problems with that, find another church.

  • Gary November 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    One thing to remember is that if/after the bond passes, people will need to be hired to staff these new facilities. Taxes will certainly need to be raised to pay these wages, pay the power bill, pay the water bill, and the myriad other costs of these new schools. Please do not delude yourselves into thinking it is ONLY the bond issue.

  • Wilhelm November 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    The comments regarding online education are more than valid – they are spot-on! There are highly inexpensive alternatives to simply planting butts in seats for educational goals, and the district should avail itself of those options before glibly asking for more, ever more. Could the fanatacism of local football be parlayed into a revenue stream for (gasp), of all things, a building fund??

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