Weber School Board presents $65 million bond proposal to voters

Feb 23 2012 - 6:53am

OGDEN -- The Weber School Board will ask voters to approve a $65 million bond to build five new schools and update two existing buildings.

The election is set for June 26.

The new bond would not increase property taxes paid by residents of the school district, but it would mean taxes will not be lowered when the district's existing debt from a 2006 bond is retired, said WSD Superintendent Jeff Stephens.

"The No.1 priority for the school board was to make sure tax rates did not increase, with the current state of the economy," Stephens said. "But our buildings are aging, and these projects are going to need to get done. We feel like this is the optimum time, with interest rates low and construction costs down."

Under the bond plan:

* Wahlquist Junior High, 1033 N. 1200 West, Farr West, built in 1942, would be replaced with a new school to be built next to Farr West Elementary. The $18 million building project would be complete by August 2014.

* North Park Elementary, 4230 S. 2175 West, Roy, built in 1959, would be replaced with a new school on a nearby site obtained in a property swap with the Roy Development Agency. The $10 million building would be completed by August 2014.

* MarLon Hills Elementary, 4400 Madison Ave., Ogden, and Club Heights Elementary, 4150 S. 100 East, Ogden, schools built in 1960 and 1942, respectively, would be replaced by a new elementary school at 4300 Madison, the site of the old South Ogden Junior High. The $10 million project would begin in 2013 and be completed sometime in 2015.

* West Weber Elementary, at 4178 W. 900 South, Ogden, built in 1928, would be replaced by a new building elsewhere on the school's existing site. The $10 million project would be complete in August 2013.

* A new elementary school would be built at a cost of $10 million in a high-growth area to be determined, probably in the northern or western part of the district. The expected project dates would be June 2013 through August 2015.

The average age of the buildings being replaced is 68 years old, and the oldest building is 84.

* Rocky Mountain Junior High, at 4350 W. 4800 South, West Haven, would get an addition with eight to 10 classrooms, to handle enrollment growth, with work to be complete by August 2014. The cost is $5 million.

* North Ogden Junior High, at 575 E. 2900 North, would get a $2 million renovation to handle issues including a cafeteria, gym and stage area too small to accommodate its student population. Work would begin in 2013 and be completed in 2015.

Nate Taggart, Weber School District spokesman, said the district -- which is Utah's sixth-largest and serves 30,423 students -- has gained an average of 230 students per year over the past decade. In its peak years, Weber School District gained more than 300 students per year, about half the enrollment of an average elementary school.

Stephens said the way the district handles growth initially is by redrawing boundary lines to reassign students from over-crowded to less-crowded schools. But at some point, new schools are needed to handle growth.

And schools constructed in the 1950s were not built to current seismic or electrical codes; were not built to accommodate disabled students; and they do not have wiring or power to handle the computer and other technological requirements of today's teachers and students.

"We have one school where the teachers' prep area is on the same thermostat as the computer lab next door," Taggart said. "The computers get hot and need a cool room, so the teacher prep area is freezing."

Stephens said the district will be able to accomplish so much with $65 million only because it will not have to purchase land. Many years ago, the district acquired inexpensive farmland to serve as future building sites.

Stephens said if all goes as planned, bond money will become available in increments of $15 million per year in 2012, 2013 and 2014, then at $10 million per year in 2015 and 2016, allowing the district to pay off its previous bond while taking on the new debt.

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