The Park City Board of Education unanimously agreed to move ahead with creating a building authority for the purpose of funding school facilities in the future. It’s one of multiple options the board is pursuing to build new and expanded schools in the Park City School District.
Park City School Board President Andrew Caplan says the schools have always had the authority to increase the capital levy and increase taxes to fund projects.
“That’s always been an option,” he said. “Not one that we prefer, but that’s been an option. A general obligation bond, which is what people think of as a school bond, voting in November and having a referendum around a large-scale project, that’s still on the table. A building authority is a very similar process in that you need to go and create a very specific plan on your projects.”
Caplan says using a building authority to finance projects has become more popular in the state and the historically low interest rates add to the appeal.
The school district’s master planning exercise finished earlier this year and three projects were identified as key priorities. The projects include moving 9th grade into an expanded high school, building a new wing to accommodate 6th through 8th grade at Ecker Hill Middle School, and providing expanded facilities in all four elementary schools for a universal pre-K program. The price tag is somewhere in the $150 to $200 million range.
A general obligation bond is about a year and a half process and a building authority allows for more flexibility.
“If we had a project that had some momentum in the community that’s on a smaller scale, a building authority would allow us to be a little bit more flexible in terms of our timing,” Caplan said. “And one of the other things we're exploring is a public-private partnership where we’re potentially partnering with city in terms of various projects especially if the cities looking at quite a bit of project capital work on the Kearns corridor in the coming years. You know a lot of those things are going to require some flexibility in terms of timing on our side, and we just want to have all the tools at our disposal. And this is one that we've been discussing for, I don't know, the past year or so. And so when we do get to the next stages of our master planning which we continue to work on, it will be an option for us.”
Caplan says the building projects will take years to complete and multiple financing mechanisms. He thinks the price tag will be lower than the original proposed $200 which was estimated by bond architects who were hired earlier this year to do project cost assessments.
“So, we have a fairly good idea of what the community wants, especially as we continue to grow,” he said. “But we're gonna be flexible. I think there's a possibility for some exciting projects to combine with the city, with some of the larger foundations of the state and lease revenue bonds, general obligation bonds. I think it will be a combination of all the funding sources by the time we're all done.”
Caplan says interest rates are low and the community is demanding best-in-class education standards in Park City school district facilities.
“Even on $100 million of borrowing, the interest expense on that is, you know, a couple million dollars a year,” he said. “So, not to say that is insignificant but it would be the cheapest levels to borrow money that we’ve ever seen in our community.”
Caplan says they are obligated to use every tool at their disposal for funding the projects and they would be doing a disservice to the community otherwise. He says the master planning process has included the stakeholder community and no decisions will be made without that input.
The School Board voted unanimously in favor of the Articles of Incorporation. The Oct. 20 meeting will require the school board to adopt officers including a president, vice-president, and treasurer. They will also establish parameters under which building projects would be authorized.