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Vote slated on $256M Granite school bond

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 9:42 a.m. MDT

The public will vote Nov. 3 on a $256 million bond proposed for the Granite School District to build new schools and upgrade old ones, a measure they've been discussing for months — but not everyone is sold on the ballot's language.

The Granite School Board voted 6-1 Tuesday night to put the bond up for a public vote in the general election and passed a resolution making the district's project list available in campaign literature. The bond would pay for two new high schools, rebuilding Granger and Olympus high schools, building a new junior high school and two elementary schools on the west side, rebuilding two elementary schools on the east side and installing air conditioning in all of the district's schools.

But the discussion heated up Tuesday night over the board's flexibility with the project list.

Board member Dan Lofgren wanted to make sure that if the bond passes the district will stick with the proposed project list. He worried that one of the planned projects could be scrapped if the district runs into financial problems after the bond passes.

"I am not comfortable with breaking a promise," Lofgren said. But Board President Sarah Meier said Lofgren had nothing to worry about and insisted that the board would go forward with the planned projects. The two went back and forth in a heated argument that culminated in a shouting match.

Sides formed as board member Connie Burgress pointed out that a science center in Broadbank has not been finished, as it was ditched for higher-priority construction projects. Lofgren also said the board should make a formal effort to present the project list to the public and ask residents what they think the most important projects for the district are.

But board member Terry Bawden assured the other members that the public elected them because they trust their decisions, and the project list was generated from years of discussion in public meetings and with the schools.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board discussed a Dan Jones & Associates poll showed that 65 percent of the people who live in the district support the proposed bond. The poll included about 600 randomly selected district residents, most of whom have children in one of its schools.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you have 65 percent" in favor, Jones said at the meeting. Support seemed to grow once those questioned were informed the bond would not increase property taxes, he said. But he also warned that in his experience, most people who say they'll come out and vote don't do it.

Jones also had warned the board during a previous meeting that a bond would be a bad idea in an economic slump. But Dale Okerlundy, a consultant from Wells Fargo, said Tuesday night that the downward economy is in the district's favor, since construction companies are looking for work and are willing to work for less.

The school board plans to repay the bond within 15 years of issuance, using the $17 million from its annual construction budget.

e-mail: mmcfall@desnews.com

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