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WEST JORDAN — Faced with crowded and aging facilities, the Jordan School Board on Tuesday gave unanimous approval to a bond resolution that would raise $495 million for new schools and renovations.
The decision will now be placed before voters in November, with the average Jordan School District homeowner facing $240 in additional annual property taxes over a five-year period.
"I don't think there's anybody that's very excited about a $495 million bond, as individuals or even as the board, but I don't think this board has a choice," school board member Lynn Crane said prior to the vote.
"We know what's happening in the school district. We know how many children are coming into the school system. If we are a responsible board, we have got to figure out a way to provide reasonable housing and good opportunities and facilities to be able to educate these children," Crane said.
The bond proposal calls for the construction of eight elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school, as well as replacements for West Jordan Elementary and West Jordan Middle School.
The new buildings, as well as safety and air conditioning renovations at existing schools, were listed as bond priorities, with the board demarcating less student-centered projects like a new transportation facility and Jordan Applied Technology Center in Sandy as secondary goals dependent on available funds.
"You could say this is like a child's Christmas wish list," Jordan School Board President Richard Osborn said. "These are all the things we'd like but they're not all the things we're going to get."
The original bond proposal called for $501 million, but that number was lowered to $495 million after board members removed a line item for artificial football field turf that persisted as a priority from former board members prior to Jordan's split with Canyons School District.
"That was a different board and a different district, so maybe we could get rid of that one," said board member Kayleen Whitelock.
Several board members expressed a desire to lower the bond total further to $480 million by removing the transportation facility and other administrative projects, but it was ultimately agreed that a $495 million bond would allow for inflation and fluctuations in construction costs over the bond's five-year term.
"I would be less inclined to pare it down to the bone," Osborn said. "I would like to have a little cushion on it so that we are able to go a little farther."
If approved by voters, the bond is projected to cost taxpayers between $8 and $10 each month for every $100,000 of assessed property value. The monthly cost for the average home in the school district — valued at roughly $250,000 — would be around $20.
The number of students in the Jordan School District is expected to double in the next two decades, and each year the district adds between 2,000 and 2,500 students — the equivalent of two elementary schools.
In June, district officials conducted a survey of area residents, in which 80 percent or participants indicated support for a $520 million bond for new buildings.
Jolynn Alger, who serves on the community council of Eastlake Elementary School and is the organizer of the Jordan District for Quality Education Facebook group, said she supports a bond.
Alger said her children's school is already dealing with overcrowding, having switched to a year-round schedule and rotating classrooms to free up space.
"We really need space for these kids because we're running out of room," she said. "We are close to running out of options of places to put our kids."
Jordan School District board member, Janic Voorhies, also said she felt the bond was a good thing for the future of the kids.
"I have grandchildren in the school district," Voorhies said. "I want to be sure that they get the best education possible, so I'm happy to see we've made some arrangements to make long range planning so those children will be in good shape when they graduate from high school."
The bond is projected to cost taxpayers between $8 and $10 each month for every $100,000 of assessed property value. The monthly cost for the average home in the school district — valued at roughly $250,000 — would be around $20.
However, parents in the Facebook group had expressed some concerns about the bond, Alger said, particularly whether the district would have adequate funding to staff the new buildings once they're built and whether the bond money would be spent efficiently.
One mother in the school district, who asked not to be identified, said the tax increase is too expensive for her as a mother of five children.
"I understand they need to build new schools, but it's really hard to have your taxes go up when you're trying to keep up with everything else too," the South Jordan resident said. "I will probably do a little more homework on it, but in the end, I will probably vote 'no' for it."
In response to those concerns, the board is planning to create advisory committees to oversee the district's building plans. Alger spoke positively of the proposed committees, saying they would add transparency to the bonding process.
Alger said that while she personally supports the bond, she hopes all parents will take time to study out the proposal and make and educated vote in November. She said the board has acted quickly in approving the bond proposal, but there is still months before the election for parents to ask questions and form an opinion.
"The truth of it is, we don't have time to waste on deciding, ‘Are we going to (or) are we not?'" Alger said of the board's consideration of the bond. "Nothing can delay these kids coming, so put it to the people and let the people respond."
Prior to the November election, a public hearing will be held on the bond in September, district spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf said.