PROVO — When Provo voters go to the polls in November, they’ll see a $108 million bond from the Provo School District. The money from the bond will pay to rebuild most of Provo High School (with the exception of the new field and the addition from the 1990s), and Rock Canyon, Edgemont, Provost and Sunset View elementary schools, the schools with the most serious safety concerns in the district.
When all the bonds have been sold, which will happen over a period of years, residents will see an increase of $13 per month on a $200,000 home — the median home value in the city. For a $200,000 business, it will mean $21 per month. The increase on property tax bills will happen gradually. That amount will change for homes and businesses valued more or less.
“In the past we’ve put a lot of Band-Aids on things all across the district,” said board member Steven Staples. “What this whole process has taught me is we can’t do that anymore.”
He said the district has almost $200 million in needs right now. There are cracks in the ceilings and walls at Provo High School. At Provost Elementary, an employee goes to work an hour and a half early every Monday morning to turn on the water so it’s not brown when the kids arrive.
“Provo School District is dying a death from a thousand cuts,” said board member McKay Jensen. “We’re bleeding from a thousand places. We’re taking money to make repairs and that’s not an acceptable place to be anymore. We have 10,000 little cuts and one gusher and that one gusher is Provo High. We’re not trying to repair Provo High — we’re trying to make sure we use our budget appropriately. We have to stop the bleeding and the bleeding is most at Provo High.”
Though five schools will be rebuilt with the bond, there are two others also in dire need of rebuilding — Dixon Middle School and Wasatch Elementary School. The five others were in greater need, but school board members said they intend to rebuild the other two schools too.
“We have seven buildings that need to be fixed, not five,” Jensen said. “I hope we can have eyes on seven. We commit, we want to build seven.”
He said the district will first address Provo High School because of its huge maintenance budget — that alone could be enough to rebuild another elementary school.
“I support doing all seven schools sooner than later,” said board member Shannon Poulsen.
There are also needs at Timpview High School, including a new track and field, said board president Michelle Kaufusi.
Board member Jim Pettersson said he recognizes that the property tax increase will be a burden for some residents, but there are agencies and organizations that can help them. And for some, it will be a problem no matter how large the bond.
“We get to a point where we have to make a decision, have to look to the future,” he said. “How do you put a price on the life of a child?”
Board members said they wouldn’t be asking for such a large bond if there were any other choices. A lot of the property in Provo can’t be taxed, so the school district doesn’t collect as much in taxes as it could — Brigham Young University, all church properties and the Utah State Hospital are all tax-exempt.
“We’re kind of in a little bit of a bind,” Kaufusi said.
Jensen said it’s important to note that the district isn’t asking to go into debt for salaries or programs — it’s to fix the buildings used by children.
Poulsen said she thinks rebuilding the schools will enhance the entire city.
“People will want to move here; people will want to raise their children here,” she said.
Bond information is available on the school district’s website.