Sunday, October 15, 2017

Granite Bond Proposal or Short Term Memory

Note, this is a copy of some random facebook posts. I will see if I have time to come back with something more formal.  

I like safe buildings. I do however feel I have been lied to. 

When GSD promoted the $256,000,000 bond last time, it was with the promise that they would not be raising taxes, which they already have for a different reason. Bonding for any more prior to paying off what they currently have goes against what we were told.

Yes, they promised no tax increase for the last bond, which they followed. I noted that the tax increase was for a different reason. Yes they need "permission" to raise taxes, in that they have to have a truth in taxation hearing after telling people they are planning on doing it and listening or ignoring all those that come to oppose the tax increase.

And yes, we were shown (for the last bond) a plan that had no tax increase in the future, which they either scrapped or decided it was bogus.

I don't like being lied to and yes they are related. Is 100% of the 12% property tax increase going directly to and only to teachers for a 12% raise? What percentage of the money coming from the State is going to capital improvements now and you do notice the end of this article.

For several years, the districts have asked the state to allow them to have an exception to use state money to some extent for capital improvements. That has been in state law with an ongoing sunset.

It is possible that will expire about the same time as the Jordan School District split solution. I was not in the #utleg when that solution was crafted, but I do know there have been new protections put in place to avoid another district being created and leaving the remainder with big problems.

What did they say last time?

Granite had been working on a $17 Million per year budget for new and fixed buildings, but decided to use it for the 2009 bond for over $256 Million. They were supposed to have everything all figured out until it got paid off and then use the $17 Million again for the same thing.
(Note, since I posted the above link, the district website has deleted this information. I have the screen shot, but the text has now been added below). 

When they borrowed the $256 Million, they promised they would pay if off before coming back. If they had paid off the current bond and then they decided they couldn't do it for $17 Million a year anymore that would be one thing, but not only did they sell the voters a line, they sold the investors a line as well 

They have known the current seismic problems have existed for some time. I guess air conditioning was a higher priority for the $256 Million bond last time? How long before the $256 Million is paid back?

"Voters authorized general obligation bonding of $256 million in November 2009. As of June 2013, the district had issued $231 million and had remaining authorization of $25 million. The bond money has been used to rebuild Granger High School, Olympus High School, Oakwood Elementary, Woodstock Elementary, and the Hartvigsen School. In addition, the funding was used to build 2 new elementary schools (Elk Run and Armstrong), and to provide air conditioning for all schools in the district. The district plans to issue the remaining $25 million of bond authorization during the 2017-18 school year. The funds are budgeted to build a new elementary school and to purchase a school site."

For the New Proposed Bond, most of the rebuild/remodel for phase one do not have the " * Projects to be financed with bond proceeds (Utah Code 53A-18-102) ". According to the GSD mailer on the bond, only 5 of 31 listed school projects are being funded by the proposed bond.  So how is the district paying for those other projects? Will they issue another new bond in a few years or do they already have the money for those?

While the DA is investigating one school district re: this issue, it has not been reported they are also investigating GSD. Perhaps they should be.

I received a well written Voter information tri-fold by GSD in the mail, addressed to Registered Voter at my address. Even though it was just one side of the issue and obviously has bias, it had great information. My complaint does not focus there.  

The GSD is advertising for the bond using district money, at least via Facebook. 

The ad doesn't not agree with the tri-fold and implies that all the projects are being paid by the bond, which appears to be false advertising, if the tri-fold is correct.

Everything I have seen shows the District is paying for the promoting of the bond.

Update:  There is a PIC or a PAC 
Approx. $30,000 has been raised to promote the bond, most large donations are from Architects (not me) or Engineers or Contractors that would benefit from the bond.



From the 2009 Q&A from the District Website, recently deleted.

Answers to bond questions

1. How can we be sure the Board won’t raise taxes for this bond – like the ballot says they can?
The Board of Education has very publicly committed not to raise taxes to pay for these bonds.  Historically the Board of Education has kept its promises.  To break this promise would significantly compromise the ability of individual board members to be reelected.
2. What is to hold the board to their commitment?
The Board of Education unanimously approved the “project list.”  Historically the Board of Education has kept its promises.  To deviate from that list would significantly compromise the ability of individual board members to be reelected.
3. If we don’t live in the county can we still vote?
 Only residents of Granite School District will be involved in this election.
4. Will only two new elementary schools be needed in the West Valley/Magna area in the next 20 years?
We know the area  needs two right now and the pay-as-you-go strategy is not sufficient to build those.
5. Where did the $17 million come from?
The $17 million comes out of the capital outlay budget.
6. Where will students be located while our school is being rebuilt?
This will need to be evaluated.  It has been our practice to hold school in the existing building for school while the new building is built whenever possible.  Communities are involved in this planning.
7. What would happen if an unseen emergency/catastrophic need arises?
The district is insured for emergencies and catastrophes.  A significant contingency plan has been built into this bond and we are certain that we will be able to complete the list.
8. What schools will be air conditioned first?
As soon as the bond is passed we will develop a strategy for getting all schools air conditioned as quickly as possible.  It is unlikely that any single contractor would be able to do all the schools at once so we will consider multiple contractors and review their suggestions as to how to move most quickly.
9. How were buildings identified for rebuild?
A number of factors go into this identification, including such considerations as instructional appropriateness, age of building, seismic ratings, cost of maintenance, cost of utilities, condition of roof, stable student populations and so on.  Olympus and Granger High schools rose to the top of the list as did Oakwood and Woodstock Elementary schools.
10. Can we use swamp coolers instead of air conditioners?
There are a number of factors that make swamp coolers less desirable instructionally than air conditioning including noise, humidity and dust.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why a Redistricting Commission may make things worse

Why a Redistricting Commission may make things worse

For our transportation organization, UTA, an un-elected board didn’t work as well as most would have liked. Do we want another un-elected commission?

Both in 2016 and 2017, Rep. M. Nelson proposed rules (passed the House but not the Senate, yet) that would help solve the problem that happened the last time the Utah Legislature passed new redistricting maps. In 2011, the legislative redistricting committee had really good rules and goals, but then both political parties threatened law suits and many of the ideals were abandoned. If we could just get one or two specific Republican State Senators to go along, the new proposed rules would likely pass. Those rules, and having the elected legislature create the maps, would work much better than having an "independent" un-elected redistricting commission where the one independent person gets to make the final decision.  

Even though I was not on the redistricting committee last time, I drew maps for the 2011 redistricting bills and some were officially voted on. My Congressional "Hat and Three Stripes Map" was the most favored by the committee, prior to the political parties’ involvement. I even had a similar map Senate Sponsored by Sen. Ben McAdams, the only bi-partisan Congressional District Map. (No, it didn't pass).

The maps I drew to start with had one goal in mind: to keep the districts as close to city and county lines as possible, using major roads or other obvious boundaries such as rivers, etc. I had the Congressional District divided with very few county or city boundaries crossed. My state political party chair threatened to sue the state if that map was adopted. I tried to make it fair. I wasn't trying to favor one party over the other, but didn't use any political party stats to create it. I had the Congressional District maps balanced to one person. 

If the rules that the committee was trying to follow were placed as legislative rules, it would have avoided the threats of lawsuits for following them. Outside groups created state house, state senate and state school board maps down to just a few people, while to keep the county and city boundaries as close as possible, the state house and state senate districts needed a larger difference between districts, perhaps 2% to 3%. When these other groups started doing that, we followed and we started losing district boundaries that made sense. Creating districts with populations this close actually made things worse. This is another reason for the rules being adopted differently.

At least for the Utah House map, only one State Representative voted against the final map. It initially passed 74 to 1. However, she won in 2012 and I lost. The map wasn't perfect, and I knew it would be tougher to win, but I voted for it because my area made more sense than other options, and we were creating new districts even though several State House Members would end up running against each other. We even changed the house district numbers for these combined districts so no one would have an advantage.

Remember many years ago, Rep. Merrill Nelson lost because he wanted fair redistricting boundaries more than getting elected. I repeated that in 2012. If the State House boundaries were so bad, why did all but one democrat in the House vote for that map?

With additional legislative rules in place prior to redistricting in 2021, it will be better to have an elected body create the maps rather than an appointed body that has no accountability. Didn’t learn anything from UTA?

Vote No on a Redistricting Commission.

Fred C. Cox, former member of the Utah State House of Representatives, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016. West Valley City, Utah