How did Alpine School District's bond get so over budget? 04

A sign stands at the site of a future elementary school Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at the intersection of North Vineyard Loop Road and N. 270 East in Vineyard. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Vineyard and Eagle Mountain will receive the final two elementary schools left on Alpine School District’s 2016 bond, the district’s board of education voted Tuesday.

The Alpine School District Board of Education voted 6-1 for the plan, with Julie King as the dissenting voice.

“Vineyard is not shrinking, and I think it needs to be treated as the growing and thriving city that it is and not be used as a Band-Aid to bolster up other schools that are adjacent to it,” said Ada Wilson, a member of the board, prior to the vote.

The board expects to propose a bond in 2020 to help construct schools in other growing areas.

The two elementary schools will join a middle school in Lehi on the bond’s final phase.

The vote comes after months of discussion from the board about what to do with the remaining $40 million of its $397 bond. The final three schools are expected to collectively cost $80 million.

The district has attributed the deficit to expanding the scope of projects by adding square footage to schools, unexpected infrastructure costs and construction prices that have overwhelmed the district’s 2015 estimates.

Bond funds have been used to build schools, rebuild facilities, purchase property and implement security updates.

The board voted 4-3 last month to build a middle school and two elementary schools, but delayed the decision on which communities would receive the schools.

The board voted in 2017 to build an elementary school in Vineyard, a decision that multiple board members voiced that should not have happened. Three of the board’s current members where on the board for the 2017 vote.

King said the 2017 vote was made based on data that is now outdated and incorrect. King said at the time the board was projected to be the district’s largest elementary school and is now its fourth largest elementary.

She said the district also made a commitment to Saratoga Springs that it would get a new school in the bond’s third phase that it never received.

“If our reasoning is ‘we keep our promises and our commitments,’ than that should go across the board and not favor one community or another,” King said.

She said that Vineyard Elementary School’s overcrowding could be solved with a boundary adjustment.

The district’s western side continues to grow, creating multiple communities that have approached the board requesting an additional school.

Sage Hills Elementary School in Saratoga Springs is expected to have 1,194 students in 2023, according to district estimates. That same year, Black Ridge Elementary School in Eagle Mountain is projected to have 1,653 students, Vineyard Elementary School is expected to have 1,233 students and Dry Creek Elementary School in Lehi will have 1,183 students.

Although the schools have exceeded 1,000 students, Black Ridge Elementary School had 75 fewer students this academic year than expected and 38 more than last year, Vineyard Elementary School had 62 more students than projected this year and 124 more than last year, Dry Creek Elementary School had 58 fewer students than expected this year and 14 less than last school year.

Vineyard Elementary School is 10,000 square feet smaller than the other schools, which is the equivalent of 10 classrooms.

“For me, that has been a deciding factor,” said Amber Bonner, a member of the board of education.

Sara Hacken, a member of the board, said she understands that Sage Hills Elementary School in Lehi is large, but the district doesn’t own nearby land to build another school to alleviate its growth.

“Until we can get the property, there is not a lot we can do, so I think we ought to do what we can, where we can, where we do have the property and the commitment,” Hacken said.

She said Vineyard Elementary School had to put asphalt over part of the playground in order to create space to place another portable classroom.

Parents addressed the board during the public comment section of its meeting, asking for Vineyard to receive its second elementary school.

“I urge you to be smart with your decision tonight, to get ahead of the growth and to realize that if there’s not a need for a new school this second, that soon, so very soon, there will be a need for a new school,” Maegan Jenne, the PTA president of Vineyard Elementary School, told the board.

The board saw a draft of an accountability presentation for the 2016 bond prior to the meeting where it held the vote.

Kimberly Bird, a spokeswoman for the district, said the bonds have traditionally been over budget.

“Our capital needs have always exceeded our bond revenues, that has been the case clear back to 2001,” Bird told the board.

She said the overages have come from adding additional classrooms to schools, along with inflation cost in construction and in the price of furniture, fixes and equipment.

“When people hear scope increase, it is really value added to our buildings,” Bird told the board.

A specific funding plan for how the schools will be built has not been released. The district could use monetary sources such as capital funds, the sale of assets or utilize its local building authority to build the schools.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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