Plans for 2 new schools, security upgrades highlight Iron County School District’s request for $92M in bonds

Sign in front of Iron County School District offices, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Citing a need for better and safer learning spaces, Iron County School District officials are hoping taxpayers will approve $92 million in general obligation bonds to build two new schools and upgrade the security for other district school buildings.

The measure is scheduled to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Iron County School District Superintendent Shannon Dulaney explained that the district’s proposal actually comprises three separate bonds.

Cedar City’s East Elementary School, one of two Iron County School District schools targeted for replacement under a proposed general obligation bond, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The first proposal calls for security upgrades and video surveillance camera installation for 12 of the district’s schools, remodeling and added classrooms at both Canyon View Middle and Cedar Middle schools, a new addition at Three Peaks Preschool and new tennis courts at Parowan High School.

The total cost of the projects to be funded by the first bond is nearly $26 million, which includes $3.5 million for the secure entrances, $275,000 for the video surveillance and $22 million for the construction of the new learning spaces at the aforementioned schools.

“We’re experiencing growth at our middle schools,” Dulaney told Cedar City News.”That’s where we’re seeing the largest growth and that’s why you see that in the first bond issuance, to take care of and alleviate some of the overcrowding.”

Dulaney said the CVMS and CMS schools both have “a fabulous band program and two wonderful band teachers,” and noted that of the approximately 1,000 students in grades 6-8 at the two schools, approximately 70 percent of them are enrolled in band.

Cedar City’s East Elementary School, one of two Iron County School District schools targeted for replacement under a proposed general obligation bond, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“So we have 700 kids to accommodate in the smaller rooms and it’s just not working. So really that is an area of critical need, as well as taking care of our security and safety,” she said.

Under the plan, a new music wing would be added to both schools, which would in turn free up additional classroom space, Dulaney added.

The proposed security upgrades would involve upgrading or remodeling the entryways for some schools and installing schoolwide door-locking systems, in addition to surveillance cameras and software.

“Our world today, which is what we’re trying to address here, is a different world than it was 10 years, 15 years ago, and so safety and security for our children is critical,” Kent Peterson, the district’s business administrator, said.

Hunter Shaheen, the district’s energy and construction supervisor, said much of the wiring and infrastructure for the surveillance cameras is already in place.

“Mr. Peterson has allocated that money over the years to our technology department to get that infrastructure in place,” Shaheen said. “So in the video surveillance realm, it’s mainly purchasing the cameras and having the cameras installed.”

The second and third bond proposals include plans to replace Cedar City’s East and South elementary school buildings, both of which are more than 60 years old. The cost of each new elementary school is calculated to be approximately $26.7 million per building, which accounts for the bulk of the total amounts of the second and third bonds.

Cedar City’s South Elementary School, one of two Iron County School District schools targeted for replacement under a proposed general obligation bond, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Also included in the second bond are facility upgrades at Cedar and Parowan high schools, a parking lot upgrade at Canyon View High and a new preschool facility. These items are expected to cost approximately $9 million, bringing the total cost of the second bond to just over $35 million.

The third proposed bond has a price tag of approximately $30.7 million, with $26.7 million of it going toward the second new elementary school. The remaining $4 million would be for $3.7 million worth of upgrades to the district’s alternative high school, and another $345,000 to upgrade existing district-owned office space to be used for teacher training and professional development.

Peterson said according to estimates, the cost of the first bond may represent an increase of $16.60 per year in property taxes on an average home valued at $217,000, but added that the amounts are subject to change, based on the value of property assessments and other factors.

Peterson also noted that as old bonds are retired or paid off, the amount of each Iron County taxpayer’s obligation is expected to gradually decline slightly, as shown in a graphic on the school district’s two-page information sheet regarding the proposal. Each of the three bonds would likely be issued three to four years apart, with all three needing to be issued within a 10-year window. 

Cedar City’s South Elementary School, one of two Iron County School District schools targeted for replacement under a proposed general obligation bond, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Iron County School District last issued general obligation bonds in 2006, district officials noted, adding that money raised by those bonds was used to make upgrades to the Cedar High and Parowan High school buildings, in addition to building the new Cedar North Elementary School, which opened in the fall of 2017.

Over the past 12 years, the total enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 students to more than 9,400 today, according to district figures.

District officials said the projects chosen to be included in the upcoming bond proposition were carefully selected by the Iron County School District Board of Education, using a prioritizing needs assessment guided by a 10-year plan approved by the board last year.

“The 10-year plan showed the need of our facilities, where our facilities sat in their condition from the top down, from roofing to seismic to electrical, plumbing and mechanical,” Shaheen said, adding that school board members used that list to identify and prioritize each school’s needs.

“Once we got to that point, we could address what gets covered out of capital and what are we looking to ask the public for help with the general obligation bond,” he said.

After formally deciding on the project list this spring, school board members on July 9, adopted a resolution to put the bond initiative on the November ballot.

Dulaney said the district’s bond proposal has earned the support of the Utah Taxpayers Association, saying that she and other district officials went over the proposal’s details with state Sen. Howard Stephenson, the taxpayers association’s longtime president, and state Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City.

“We met with Sen. Stephenson. He’s the head of the taxpayers association and went through all of this with him as well as Sen. Evan Vickers, in our presentation and explained what we were doing,” Dulaney said. “They asked several questions and then in the end, Howard Stephenson said that he felt very good about our plan and thought it was a fiscally sound and took it back to the taxpayers association. They hardly ever do this, but they’ve decided to publicly support what we’re doing because it is such a sound plan. We have a great history of doing things the right way in regards to our buildings.”

Stephenson confirmed he and the Utah Taxpayers Association support Iron County School District’s bond proposal. He told Cedar City News Tuesday:

“Our official position is in support of the bond. We’ve determined that it’s appropriate. It’s not excessive, and (it meets) safety needs of students critical in this day and age. Also, with the construction of their buildings, they have agreed to use cost-effective construction methods such as tilt up construction and lower cost methods. So, we support the bond.”

Shortly afterward, the association issued the following written statement:
“The Utah Taxpayers Association has met with Iron County School District officials and reviewed the District’s bond proposal. Due to the District’s efforts to increase school safety throughout its system and its decision to use cost efficient construction methods, the Association endorses the proposal. We encourage voters to vote in favor of the $92 million bond.”

The Iron County School District Board of Education has scheduled a public hearing during its regular meeting Tuesday evening, which members of the public are invited to make comments regarding the bond proposition and its component projects. The school board meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Details about the bond proposal will be included in the Voter Information Pamphlet scheduled to be sent out to voters statewide in early October. Iron County voters should start seeing their ballots in the mail shortly after Oct. 16. The last day for residents to register to vote is Oct. 30.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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