SOUTH JORDAN — Early voting began Tuesday in municipalities across the state.
One item residents in the Jordan School District have on their ballot is a $495 million bond resolution, which, if adopted, would be used to build 11 new school buildings and renovate or update several others.
The proposed AAA-rated bond would be repaid over 15 to 20 years, meaning an extra $10 per month for every $100,000 of home value for homes in the district. The average Jordan School District homeowner faces about $240 in additional annual property taxes over a five-year period.
Opponents of the bond say it's just too much money, but those willing to pay believe it's the only solution for a rapidly growing Utah population.
"We don't think that's very much considering the fact that we want to have these facilities for our children," said Tanya Peters, a PTA member at Eastlake Elementary School in South Jordan.
Many other parents who have kids in the district agree with Peters.
"Some teachers express concerns of having to teach to a large class," said Mike Haynes, a member of Friends of Jordan School District, a group that supports the bond.
"The hallways (are) so crowded that my son can't even carry a backpack in the hallway," he said.
Haynes has two kids in the district and has been doing a lot of research on the Jordan School District bond.
"Anybody that spends the time to go meet with the administration or go to the Jordan School District Bond Info website, they'll see how our district compares to other districts in the state, the region, and the country," Haynes said.
Those who oppose the bond also agree that there are a lot of kids in the Jordan School District and not enough room in existing schools. But some of them are concerned with the amount of money being spent to build the schools.
"Jordan School District must house the students that are showing up, but right now the Jordan School District is building Taj Mahals," said Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.
"They need to spend less per square foot in their construction methods," Stephenson said. "They could spend 25 percent less and have just as nice a building and not put Jordan (District) No. 1 in the highest property tax in the state."
At this point, Jordan School District officials say they "it would be irresponsible to commit the district to a cost-per-square-foot maximum, when those costs constantly vary with the economy and interest rates, which are both beyond the district's control."
Jordan School District must house the students that are showing up, but right now the Jordan School District is building Taj Mahals.
–Howard Stephenson, Utah Taxpayers Association
On its website, the Jordan School District outlines how the money will be spent, should the bond pass. By 2019, the district will need eight new elementary schools, two new middle schools, one new high school, and upgrades to existing schools.
The district said its new buildings will be "sensible, energy efficient" and have a"75-year life span." The district also said the new buildings "are not lavish, rather durable and constructed to enhance the educational learning environment."
Parents who support the bond said they're confident the bond money will be used properly.
"If you go around to other school districts in the state, there are far larger buildings and more elaborate buildings," Haynes said.
"There is a citizen's community council that will help participate in how those buildings are built and how much money will be spent on those buildings," he said.
Another argument against the bond is that Jordan School District would ask for more money in the future. However, district officials say "the Board of Education has not committed to any future bond beyond this current five-year plan."
Contributing: Wendy Leonard