On June 26, residents within Weber School District voting precincts will have the opportunity to vote in a bond election.
The Weber School District Board of Education is asking permission to bond for $65 million in order to address growth in student enrollment and replace several aging facilities in our district.
It has been important to me and the board of education that we be transparent with the public on this issue. To date, I have presented information regarding the bond to at least 49 different groups. These groups have included Breakfast Exchange Club, Rotary Club, PTSA presidents, presidents-elect, and legislative vice-presidents. We've had specific meetings with communities directly impacted by the bond.
Additionally, we have held two public hearings. Throughout the process, public input has been sought and that input has helped us shape the list of proposed bond projects. We have been most grateful for the recommendations that we have received from the public. As we have visited with these various groups, we have felt overwhelming support.
I believe that there are several reasons that we have experienced such tremendous support for this bond. First, we have structured our finances in such a way that passing this bond will not require a tax rate increase.
This is possible due to the refinance and restructuring of existing debt that will enable us to carefully issue new bonds as we gradually retire old bonds.
Second, I believe that our public has recognized the need for this bond to address increased student enrollment (1,700 students since the bond of 2006) and replace aging facilities. For example, West Weber Elementary was constructed in 1928 and is now 84-years old. Wahlquist Junior High was built near the start of World War II (1942). We also plan to replace Club Heights, North Park and Marlon Hills Elementary.
These schools no longer meet seismic code, lack the electrical capacity necessary to power modern technology, and don't meet the needs of children with disabilities. In order to accommodate growth, we are proposing a 10-classroom addition at Rocky Mountain Junior High School, as well as a remodel and expansion of the existing cafeteria and gymnasium at North Ogden Junior High School.
This is a good time to build schools. Construction costs right now are very low. Interest rates are very low. Delaying replacement of these buildings would likely result in a significant overall cost increase.
The Weber School District Board of Education has been very thorough in planning for this bond. They have carefully identified the greatest needs throughout the district in terms of both growth in student enrollment, as well as capital facility needs. Most important, the board has been sensitive to taxpayers by insisting that the bond not require a tax rate increase. We are grateful to our community for their support of our schools and the children of Weber School District. We encourage you to vote on June 26.
- Jeff Stephens