School district bond vote too close to call

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SPANISH FORK -- Votes are too close to call for a $160 million Nebo School District bond. The future of the measure is now in the hands of absentee and provisional ballots, and the closeness of the race is only adding to the controversy.

Opponents of the bond say voters need more time to make this expensive decision, but the school district argues this was the most effective way to move projects forward.

"How do we as a district keep up with the growth without building new buildings?" asked Chris Sorensen, superintendent for the Nebo School District.

The Nebo School District is one of the fastest growing in the state, adding more than 1,000 students a year. The measure would pay for seven new schools and numerous improvements, but at what cost to taxpayers?

"The kindest way we could do it and try to build the schools is to at least not make it worse in these economic times," Sorensen said.

The impact would be a little more than $300 a year for those who own a $250,000 home, but the district says tax rates would stay the same; payments would only extend about five years from existing bonds.

"It's a travesty of justice!" said Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

Critics like Van Tassell take issue with the timing of the election: June rather than November, with a low turnout of less than 10 percent and fewer polling places -- down from 30 to seven.

"We've got a difficult time. People are losing their jobs, they're having trouble making ends meet, and this is the wrong time to be asking a couple of taxpayers to vote on whether all of them should be paying for this," Van Tassell said.

About 6,000 people turned out for Tuesday's election. As of Wednesday afternoon, the bond was passing by only 127 votes.

More than 160 absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, and both sides can only wait. The final tally of all the votes will be complete on July 1.


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Whit Johnson


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