Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith has a message for the Ogden community: OK a vote to increase local property taxes that will help fund the swimming pools at Ogden and Ben Lomond high schools or the two pools will be drained by the end of June. Smith is blunt, but honesty may have its advantages. It’s important for both the school district, and residents who support the pools, to wage active and strong campaigns to persuade voters in June that the indoor pools are worth keeping.
The cost is not a huge burden on taxpayers. The average, middle-priced home in Ogden will pay about $20 to $25 a year more in property taxes for a few years, and then the extra property tax per house could be lowered to about $6 a year on average. The higher tax bill the first years is to repair and overhaul the pools, which Smith estimates need $500,000, or more, per pool to be in good shape. In fact, the facility at Ogden High School has already been temporarily closed because there is too much leakage. After the pools have been improved, the lower per house average property tax will be used to subsidize the annual losses the pools generate, which is about $260,000 a year, according to Smith.
Hopefully, the superintendent realizes that a sudden closure of the pools will be very unpopular, perhaps even a public relations fiasco for the district. The pools at the two schools are a part of Junction City. They have been around for a long time and are heavily used. It’s to Smith’s benefit that the district make an energetic case for the pools before the planned June 25 vote. A less truculent strategy by the district’s leadership would help.
However, supporters of the pools also need to make a sincere effort to campaign and, more importantly, get out the vote. Summer elections tend to have very poor turnouts. People need to be reminded to cast their ballots for the pools.
The community does not have a large, expensive aquatics center with indoor pools such as Davis County enjoys. Pool complexes in Ogden and North Ogden are outdoors. The Marshall White Center and local health clubs have indoor pools, but they will be stressed if Ogden district closes its pools. Community swimming lessons that are taught at the pools would cease.
Swim teams aren’t leaving the Ogden district, but there will be consequences if the schools’ pools are dry. If Ogden wants to keep the pools, it has the opportunity to do that in June.