PTA endorses Canyons District’s $283 million bond proposal
The recognized parent group for Canyons’ schools has endorsed the District’s $283 million tax-rate-neutral bond proposal that voters are being asked to consider this Election Day.
The Board of the Canyons’ Region 17 PTA, which encompasses all parent-teacher and parent-teacher-student associations within the District, voted Tuesday, Sept 12 to publicly support the measure, which would generate funds to build and renovate schools.
The endorsement reflects the trust and support that Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Draper, Midvale and Alta families have placed in our schools, teachers and staff, said CSD Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe. “We are fortunate to live in a forward-thinking community that puts children first and that values education.”
Canyons District has made strides toward addressing $650 million in repair and safety upgrade needs inherited from a predecessor school district in 2009. Next fall’s completion of the remodel of Indian Hills Middle will be the 13th and final project promised to voters as part of a 2010 bond. Passing a second bond would allow the District to improve and modernize an additional 27 schools benefitting 17,000 children.
“The success of our children is directly linked to the success of our schools. All Canyons District students deserve safe and healthy learning environments wired for the demands of today’s high-tech educational standards,” said PTA Region 17 Director Tonya Rhodes said. “The Board of Education has wisely committed to turn dirt in every corner of the District while focusing on the oldest schools with the highest-priority safety needs, and they’re designing the bond so that it won’t raise property taxes. It’s a fiscally-sensible plan that will benefit generations of children to come.”
Are New Schools More Efficient than Older Schools?
With better insulating materials and sustainable building products, today’s schools are more energy efficient than those built 50, or even 20, years ago, which translates to lower energy bills and an immediate cost savings for taxpayers.
As schools and school districts grow larger, however, to meet demands of growing student populations, those energy gains can be quickly wiped out. Yet Canyons District has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by 39 percent over the past eight years — even with the addition of 1 million square feet of new construction.
Since Canyons’ inception, the District has worked to address the life safety and technological deficiencies of the aging stock of buildings it received from a previous school district while also planning for growth. Among 13 major school improvement projects financed with proceeds from a bond approved by voters in 2010 were the construction of the first high school and middle school in Draper.
Yet, even with these new buildings and the added burden of having to power modern teaching tools, CSD’s conservation efforts have reduced carbon emissions by 39 percent since 2009. That’s the equivalent of taking 1,473 cars off the road per year, says Chris Eppler, CSD’s Energy Conservation Specialist.
The energy savings is partially due to a push to place mechanical systems in unoccupied mode when schools aren’t being used, while the rest is tied to heating, cooling and lighting upgrades, Eppler says. “It really comes down to doing things right. If you repair, build and operate schools correctly with an attention to quality, you will reduce energy consumption while keeping classrooms more comfortable.”
For his environmental stewardship, Eppler has received numerous awards, including being named an Energy Pioneer by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. His conservation efforts have not only saved money but have resulted in better learning environments for thousands of children.
Among other steps CSD has taken over the years to cultivate healthy schools:
WATER USAGE: Canyons is doing its part to curb water usage; the district has about 370 acres of turf to maintain. With a $15,000 grant from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, CSD hired and trained students to help survey, monitor and adjust school water schedules based on the root zone, type of grass, shade, soil type and evaporation rate. In July 2014, the district used 16.5 million gallons less than in July 2012 and 9.5 million gallons less than in July 2013.
RADON TESTING: The District was recently honored by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality for its radon-testing program. CSD is the only district in Utah that regularly tests schools for radon with all buildings tested at least every two years.
NO IDLING: On Earth Day, 2016 Canyons became the first school district in Utah to go idle free at all of its campuses. The campaign kicked off early in the morning at Ridgecrest elementary school where no-idling signs were installed and students greeted drivers with placards, informational pamphlets and window clings to place in vehicles. Eventually, signs were placed at all Canyons schools and no-idling pledges were sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to “turn their key and be idle free.”
Canyons District Honored Again for its Fiscal Responsibility
When it comes to matters of money, Canyons District is in good hands. For the eighth year running, the District has received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International.
The award recognizes CSD’s commitment to the highest standards of school budgeting.
“School business officials are responsible for ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that the district budget reflects student priorities and needs,” said ASBO International Executive Director John Musso in a statement. “This award recognizes districts that have made it clear they want students at the center of their fiscal plan and vision.”
Canyons, under the leadership of Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, also routinely earns the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award is the association’s highest award in government budgeting. It recognizes Canyons’ budget as an outstanding policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and communications device.
Canyons also has maintained a sterling AAA bond rating, which has a bearing on the District’s ability to affordably bond to pay for upgrades to aging school buildings. A high rating is like having perfect credit, which translates to low interest rates and millions in savings to taxpayers.
Healthy Schools: How Does Classroom Lighting Affect Learning?
Can adding daylight to children’s daily diet of reading, writing and arithmetic boost student achievement?
It may sound far-fetched, but “daylighting” — or the addition of windows, skylights and full spectrum lighting — is catching on as a powerful and relatively inexpensive way to improve the learning environment at schools. Motivated by research showing how light is critical for the productivity and well-being of students and school employees, the Canyons Board of Education has proposed a tax-rate-neutral bond that, among other things, would be used to add large windows and skylights to 18 elementary schools in all corners of the District.
When Canyons was created, it received aging schools from a previous school district. Some have so many safety, seismic and other structural and technological deficiencies, according to a group of independent engineers, that they need to be rebuilt. “Learning can only happen in an environment where children feel cared for, secure and comfortable,” says CSD’s Facilities Director Rick Conger.
Other schools still have years of life in them, but were designed in such a way that they don’t allow in much light. These schools were built in the 1960s and 1970s at a time when open classrooms were in vogue, explained CSD’s Facilities Director Rick Conger. Classrooms back then were divided by partitions or bookshelves, instead of walls, giving them a cozy living-room-like atmosphere conducive to hands-on, collaborative learning. As such, light was able to easily filter through the school.
But over the years, as teachers found the open design to be noisy and disruptive, walls were added, thereby closing many classrooms off to fresh air and natural light. “Open designs still have a place in education,” notes Conger. “There’s actually been a resurgence of interest in group learning and experiential forms of instruction. But the key is building classrooms to support all types of instruction, including group learning and traditional lectures. Today’s designs feature moveable partitions and modular furniture. They are built for flexibility.”
Today’s schools also are constructed to infuse classrooms with loads of light. While research on non-traditional forms of instruction is mixed, there’s growing consensus on the benefits of light.
A recent study published in the Building and Environment Journal found that classroom design choices, such as lighting, can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25 percent. In another 2003 study, cited by the U.S. Department of Education, classrooms with the most daylight had a 20 percent better learning rate in math and 26 percent improved rate in reading when compared to classrooms with little to no natural light.
There’s also data suggesting large windows with views of outdoor greenery can lower the stress and mental fatigue of students and improve the productivity of teachers. And that’s without considering the indirect environmental health benefits of newer, more energy efficient lighting fixtures.
Light, of course, makes it easier to perceive what’s going on around us. It controls the body’s circadian system, or sleep-wake cycles, and has an influence on the body’s secretion of hormones affecting cognitive performance, writes Anjali Joseph, Ph.D. for the Center for Health Care Design. For these reasons, and more, hospitals are required by federal law to have windows in all patient rooms. he LSC deleted the requirement for windows or doors to the outside in patient sleeping rooms all-together, because the te
“When paired with evidenced-based instruction, well-designed school environments can positively influence student learning,” says CSD’s Instructional Supports Director Amber Roderick-Landward.
Don’t Forget to Register to Vote!
In about a month, Canyons District voters will head to the polls where they’ll be asked to consider supporting a $283 million, tax-rate-neutral bond that would be used to rebuild or remodel seven aging schools, build a new school to accommodate growth, and add front office security and accessibility upgrades and/or skylights and windows for more natural light at 18 elementary schools. In all, more than 17,000 children at 27 schools in Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Draper, Midvale, and the town of Alta would be impacted.
Whatever CSD residents decide, we want their decisions to be informed by the facts, which is why we’ve made information available on a special website: www.bond.canyonsdistrict.org. It’s also important that they vote.
There are multiple ways to perform your civic duty in Utah, making it more convenient than ever. You can vote by mail (all registered voters in Salt Lake County receive mail-in ballots) vote early in person, or vote in person on Election Day. But in order to voter, you must first register.
How to Register to Vote
You can find out if you’re already registered to vote by typing your current address into the voter information fields at this website: https://vote.utah.gov/vote/menu/. If you aren’t registered, or have moved since the last time you voted, you can register online at this same website as long as you have a Utah driver’s license or state ID. If you don’t have a Utah driver’s license — maybe you’ve recently relocated from another state — you can still register online, but you’ll have to print out a form and mail it in. You also can go to your county clerk’s office and register in person.
What’s the Deadline to Register?
The last day to register for mail-in votes is on Tuesday, Oct. 10. But you have until Oct. 31 to register online to vote in person.
The Canyons Board of Education, based on years of feedback from parents, students, teachers and community supporters, seeks to continue building momentum in the District’s efforts to modernize and upgrade schools in the cities of Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta. Voters are asked to approve a $283 million tax-rate-neutral general-obligation bond to fund the construction of new buildings for the Hillcrest and Brighton high school communities; a significant renovation, including the addition of a gymnasium and state-of-the-art auditorium at Alta High; a rebuild of Union Middle and Peruvian Park and Midvalley elementary schools; the construction of new schools in west Draper and the White City area; and to provide remodeled offices and/or natural-lighting features at 18 elementary schools throughout the District. As parents have expressed concern for the safety of their children while at school, the District has responded by creating this innovative and ambitious facility-improvement plan that concurrently addresses projected student-enrollment growth and the security and seismic issues of aging buildings. The most recent analysis of the District’s school buildings revealed approximately $342 million in repair and safety upgrade needs. Bonding is the least expensive way to get ahead of those need because it enables the District to complete projects before interest and construction rates rise further. This forward-thinking measure also advances the community’s expressed desire for aesthetically pleasing and modern schools, not only to deliver a technology-driven, 21st century education to the District’s 34,000 students, but also to provide welcoming and accessible workplaces for teachers, principals, custodians, aides, and other support staff members. Proceeds from the bond will go only toward the construction or renovation of Canyons District schools. The repayment plan has been structured so that property taxes will not increase. The established priority list of improvement projects was created with an eye toward positively impacting the maximum number of students at all grade levels. In all, these improvements will benefit about 17,000 students in all corners of the District. As another benefit to taxpayers: Canyons District is among the top 1 percent of school districts nationally that have been able to maintain a AAA credit rating, which is comparable to a perfect personal credit score. This will enable the District to borrow money at the lowest possible interest rates, and at a rate less than projected construction-cost inflation. Neighborhoods also are positively impacted by new and renovated schools. Property values of homes go up and communities are revitalized. Approval by a majority of voters would ensure that, in just a few years after the founding of the District in 2009, nearly all of the District’s schools would have either been significantly remodeled or rebuilt entirely. To be sure, this tax-rate-neutral funding plan for new and renovated schools advances Canyons District’s stated mission of inspiring greater student achievement, promoting classroom innovation, fully engaging and strengthening communities, providing stellar customer service, and remaining fiscally responsible on behalf of all stakeholders.
Board of Education of Canyons School District
Yes, our district has seismic and safety deficiencies; our Board, with the support of the first bond referendum, has made great progress in correcting them since the district was formed.
Let us run the numbers: $342M in current deficiencies, $283M Bond referendum, and $325.8M in proposed projects. So what will the value of the deficiencies be in 7 years? The math cannot tell us.
As I prepare this argument, proposed projects total $325.8M. Some of the additional money will come by issuing the bonds at a higher interest rate, and receiving a rebate from the issuer because the district will pay more interest than the AAA Rating would suggest. More will come from the Capital Assessment tax increment, now generating about $21M annually.
Issuing bonds for major improvements is common for public agencies. The result of these district wide projects, and an anticipated 50 year life of the projects, does two things: 1) it defers the cost to the future users – I am in agreement that the term is only 20 years for each issuance; and 2) 45 years from now there will be a bubble of expense to replace this generation of new schools over a 10 year period, costing over $600M in today’s dollars.
I seek to show you the part of the plan not disclosed by the district’s arguments and material. If you still choose to support the bond, at least you are making an informed choice. Please vote against this bond.
Steve Van Maren
ARGUMENT AGAINST THE BONDS
I am opposed to the bond referendum in its current form. All proposed projects are appropriate, but many of them would be completed even if the bond fails, and some sooner, because they are small projects covered by the Capital portion of your property tax. The plan shows these small projects to demonstrate activity in schools across the district; the big money will go to a new school, the school rebuilds, and major remodeling at Alta High.
While the School Board is not lying to you about keeping your Bond tax rate the same, they are misleading you, and you will pay more for the debt starting the first year the bonds are issued until about 2023, after the Old JSD Debt is retired. The tax to pay a bond is based on the principle & interest that is required to pay the bond. The revenue needed is divided by the taxable valuation of the district to calculate the tax rate. This tax rate can Go Up or down, based on the changes to property values. There is no Truth in Taxation hearing when those rates need to go up; this election is your only vote, and will impact your taxes for the next 20 years. When outside factors cause the valuation of the district to go down, property values drop, so the tax rate to repay the bonds will go up, regardless of the intent of the board.
The District leadership intends to keep the tax rate level for at least 5 years. To do this they are relying as much on an increase in assessed valuation as retiring existing bonds to finance the additional bonds. This means the money you pay will go up when your personal assessed valuation goes up. They also expect that this plan will not be sufficient in the first 5 years to pay the full cost of the new bonds. They plan, as they did for the first district bond, to make up any short-fall from the Capital property tax, thus reducing the amount available for incidental smaller projects, and routine capital expenses like copiers and school busses. And there is a built in intent to use $4M per year for 5 years for projects identified in the bond spend plan.
The current budget was adopted with an increase in your school taxes, with legislative authorization. For the last couple of years, Canyons has received more from the tax line “Canyons Equal Cap Outlay” than was collected within the district. The legislature allowed, and expected, the districts to set their certified tax rate at a level to continue receiving the same amount of funding this year as last year. The District leadership chose to show the increase in the General Fund, reducing the Capital allocation. I objected at the budget hearing without success. This choice reduced the ongoing amount available for routine Capital uses, but insured the teacher salary increases.
Please vote against this proposal to issue bonds.
Steve Van Maren
While Canyons District’s appreciates Mr. Steve Van Maren’s statement that all projects are appropriate, his assertion that many projects would be completed if the bond proposal is not approved by voters is simply incorrect. The major construction projects planned at Brighton, Hillcrest and Alta high schools cannot be done in a timely manner — or at all — if the bond proposal is not successful. Furthermore, while the District proposes to complete the school-improvement projects by 2023, Mr. Van Maren offers no alternative or schedule on how the projects could be completed without proceeds from bond issuances.
The District is committed to a tax-rate-neutral bond. It must be understood the Salt Lake County Assessor’s office appraises homes on an on-going basis. When a home’s value is appraised higher, the taxes owed will increase; conversely, when the home’s value decreases, the taxes due will decrease. Indeed, the District maintains the tax rate, but it does not control increases or decreases in appraised home values. In addition, CSD has kept its 2010 promise to not increase the tax rate while issuing bonds to build and modernize schools. In fact, the rate decreased. To be sure, the very same tax-rate-neutral promise stands for the 2017 bond proposal.
As for the countywide equalization program, these funds were used to grant an unprecedented pay increase for our dedicated teachers. Even with this adjustment, the District’s overall tax rate decreased by 3 percent and is at the lowest rate in the District’s nine-year history.
Board of Education of Canyons School District
NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING:
The Board of Education of Canyons School District shall conduct a public meeting on October 17, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at 9361 South 300 East, Sandy, Utah to hear arguments for and against the issuance of the Bonds.
Questions? Please contact the Canyons communications department.