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PC School Board Moves Forward With Bonding Authority

Park City School District

The Park City Board of Education Tuesday established a building authority which will give them the power to use lease revenue bonds as a way to pay for capital projects without going through the public vetting process – an election.

The unanimous vote now gives the Park City School Board the authority to start construction on an $84-million expansion of the Park City High School to add the 9th grade as well as a $43-million expansion of Ecker Hill Middle School to add room for 8th graders.

A $56-million bond floated to voters that would have accomplished similar projects was defeated by voters in 2015.

Lease revenue bonds have been used by other Utah school districts, but for projects costing much less.

Park City School District Business Administrator Todd Hauber says while the interest rates for these bonds have gone up over the past few months – not by much and they would be an effective and financially responsible way to pay for projects without having to wait for another election cycle. 

The next step is for the school board to finish the master plan discussions with the public and distill those into an action plan.

“With the master plan that's out on the website now,” Hauber said, “you can see the several options that are available to the board. They'll want to take that to the public and finalize which projects will advance and then determine what the financing strategy would be. One of those options now with these actions of the board is a lease revenue bond option. So, there's really two steps. One is to determine the projects and then to determine which is the appropriate financing strategy.”

He says there is no maximum amount for lease revenue bonds.

How much bonding will be authorized he says will depend on which projects are selected. The hiring of an architect is imminent.

Through the master planning process, two top priorities emerged: Returning 9th graders to the high school (which will require changing the use at Treasure Mountain Jr. High school) and making room at Ecker Hill for the 8th graders.

Hauber doesn’t think using lease revenues bonds, decided by the school board rather than voters, is circumventing the election process. Rather it’s an alternative financing option that still mandates plenty of public input.

“The board meetings are all public and the public is able to comment and have full say in those discussions during those public comment sessions,” Hauber said.” In fact there's a second layer because then the building authority itself is subject to open public meetings law and those meetings are open to the public and again the public has the opportunity to express their support or concerns with the actions being taken.”

While municipal bond rates have increased a bit in the past few months, he says they are still below 2%. Timing he says will be everything. A spring construction start would be optimal – but unlikely. Still, he says they’re hoping that construction could start late next summer.