At this point, it appears that Provo City School District’s $245 million bond measure is headed for defeat. It’s clear that the arguments put forward by the measure’s opponents held sway.
Now, the school district is searching for answers on how to address pressing issues, including a deteriorating Timpview High School building that would be unsafe during an earthquake and would likely lead to fatalities.
We feel it may be instructive to turn around the opponents’ campaign slogan — “We deserve better.” We feel this motto, while heartfelt, was a little selfish as it should be more important to give our children what they deserve (even if they’re not of voting age).
So, what do our children deserve? Do they deserve to go to school in a crumbling building that could lead to their deaths if catastrophe strikes? Do the district and taxpayers deserve to pay expensive legal bills for failing to address these clearly identified problems?
Part of the bond opponents’ argument was “not yet.” Now the question must be, “when?” Much hay was made of the fact that the district didn’t anticipate seeking a new bond so quickly after the last one was approved by voters. Clearly, the situation has changed, particularly with the revelations about Timpview.
Bond opponents lamented the high cost of the proposal. We certainly hope that bond opponents will continue to put forth recommendations to help bring costs in line. However, some of their points are less weighty than others.
For example, it doesn’t too much good to lament the sale of the former Provo High School as a missed opportunity to the Timpview situation. As ideal as it could’ve been, that ship has sailed (unless BYU somehow wants to sell the property back to the district).
Additionally, it’s certainly prudent to note how expensive construction costs are today, but one must also keep in mind that construction costs will almost certainly be more expensive in the future. Do the taxpayers deserve to pay even more in construction costs because of lengthy delays in identifying funds and getting the necessary approvals?
At the same time, it may be worth considering the opponents’ argument for staying at the Dixon Middle School site. Even if it’s not ideal for a modern school site, most children deserve a neighborhood school.
Unfortunately, the path forward seems rocky. Construction costs aren’t going to get cheaper. The burden placed on taxpayers isn’t necessarily going to get lighter — especially as the county government considers a long-overdue, yet unpleasant property tax hike. The district’s needs, particularly with the Timpview building, aren’t going to go away.
While the school board could consider increasing property taxes, we encourage officials to meet with the public and work on solution that will win approval from taxpayers. We’ve seen this happen in other jurisdictions, where a proposal gets revised a couple of times before ultimately winning approval.
Although there may be no ideal time to seek a bond measure, we believe the district should work toward asking voters again next year. Seeking the bond during a presidential election year will provide the greatest number of voters weighing in on the proposal and offer the clearest picture of what voters believe our children deserve.