Several issues concerning the school bond were discussed between Lisa Hatch Hone and Superintendent Doug Jacobs during an hour-long visit. She gave permission to share her report with The Morgan County News. I will try to condense it (my editing) to certain topics.
From Lisa Hatch Hone’s facebook post on Morgan Moms: This is what Jacobson told me, I have not vetted it.
Finances: There are different ways to finance a new school. The board decided to do a bond because it would show how much interest there would be in the community. A capital Lease Grant has higher interest rates, and they didn’t want to just decide to do this project without the voters’ consent.
Tax impact: They are working with Zions Bank. Bruce Williams said that being able to move funds around is expected to impact the tax by $158 per $300,000 home instead of $528. As the Century Center is paid off, and the bond from MGES is paid off, then we will be seeing a decrease in that lower number. (Added homes and business will also spread out the cost.)
Builds: To tear down the old section will cost $100,000. The new addition to the high school would be $20 million. The new middle school will cost $29 million. They got bids for design from 10 architects, and narrowed it down to seven. Those seven presented to the committee. They took those plans to eight construction teams and narrowed their bids to five. They presented and the committee chose.
Change in projected cost: The Growth Committee guessed at how much square footage it would be, and cost. They figured about $10 million for the high school and $15 million for the middle school. Then they hired an architect and a construction manager to get more accurate readings and they came up with $49 million. This was a shock to the board, and they tried to cut it down, like keeping the high school third floor unfinished and the middle school became a no-frills plan that would hold 600 but could be built on later to hold 1,000.
(The Growth Committee pored over and considered many options and needs. Both projects were deemed high priority and imminent need. Their full minutes and 2015 report, which is linked to the district website, figured $150-180 per square foot, and a two-story MHS addition instead of three-story. 2017 bond costs were $200-230 per square foot. My brother-in-law builds houses in this area and believes construction costs are likely to continue to rise, but they could level off. He does not expect a decrease.)
MS: The new school will not have AC but it will be plumbed for AC in case they can afford to put it in later. MMS got windows that open in every classroom and that has helped with keeping the classrooms cooler. The new school will have windows. Before MGES was built, MMS had grades 5-8.
MHS: Many parts of MHS are new. They have been redoing and updating sections. In the new section the chemistry lab would have a drain for their chem shower, and other such improvements that will bring them to code. The old section would be torn down after building the new, which would create more parking. There would be space to at a later date to maybe replace the auditorium and gym, the two remaining old parts.
(One lady added: A neighbor works for one of the largest contractors in the state who builds schools. He has looked over the costs associated with both schools and said that our costs are extremely low in comparison to schools being built in Davis, Salt Lake and other counties. He told me he’s actually surprised we can get the middle school built for just $29 million. It was very interesting getting his take on that. He said the plans are very conservative, “bare bones,” and offer the best dollar per square foot value available in the current market. These are basic, conservative schools they are building.)
Reducing class sizes: They have been hiring five to six teachers a year, so about one to two per school. The state pays per pupil, so as kids come in they use that money to hire new teachers. Mt. Green got money to hire new teachers but did not because they didn’t have places to put new classes. The new school will not (initially) have a full staff. They may have to change teachers around depending on how they allocate who goes to what school, which would determine how many teachers would be needed to fill schedules. Teachers got a 5 percent increase this year.
Busing: This proposed middle school has a place they can put a road so traffic doesn’t go through a subdivision, or on Trappers. Rollins Ranch kids would walk, but everyone else would still be bused. It would cut down on transportation costs. They are lobbying for the legislation to pay the amount contracted for transportation. They are supposed to be paying more than they are being paid.
Plan B: No. If this bond doesn’t pass, they will have to do temporary fixes to a problem that isn’t going away. It would be $7 million to get MHS up to code. (That does not help overcrowding. If the district still has to build, then a Capitol Lease costs us all more.)
Portables: Have been discussed but in Mt. Green the HOA doesn’t like the ones they already have. At MES there is room for them, but it doesn’t help the congestion issue. At MMS it would take up all their field space, and MHS doesn’t have space other than the practice field to the north of the school and it wouldn’t fit many. Big issue to building portables is that it doesn’t solve the congestion issue during pick up and drop off times. Even if they built the bridge (past MES), it wouldn’t totally alleviate the congestion problem.
Century Center classrooms: possibly two to three more, but right now those areas are being used for storage so the school would have to build a storage unit for the things in those areas. (The three current CC classrooms are in full use. It was built by Westland Construction.)
Land: They looked at other areas to build, but they did not have sewer etc. access, so if we build there, then it would increase the cost.
As Lisa ended her post: Good luck to us all. Everyone is trying to make the right decision. I feel we are just in a tough place. We need to do something. We don’t have money to do something. Both sides have valid points. I think we can figure this out peaceably.
Thank you all of Morgan County who supported my husband, his siblings and our seven children in their education. Our youngest is now in 10th grade. We are grateful for the excellent teachers and other staff! The quality of Morgan schools was a major factor why we chose to live here. Per pupil our district currently spends less than any district in Utah, and Utah spends far less than any other state. The district must accept all students and provide proper facilities. Our county enjoys a high quality of life and people. We want all of Morgan to have the opportunity for a high quality education. – Wynette Johnson