"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Bond Age

Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.
--Rutherford B. Hayes

The board voted Aug. 16, 6-0, to approve putting the bond on the ballot for Nov. 8, with my reluctant support.  The bond projects are specified here.  I appreciate all those who attended and spoke about the bond.  Your participation really does have an impact.  We may have blogs, facebook, audio recordings, and minutes of meetings, but there is still something to be said for people taking the time to show up and comment.

In that vein, it appears the majority of people in our district are comfortable with the bond and our current process of going into debt to build and maintain our schools.  The bond survey indicated a 70% approval for this bond.  And, in the past 10 years, the bonds have passed with more than 60% support.  Additionally, during the public bond meetings this spring, with very few exceptions, the emphasis was on what projects would go into the bond, not how do we avoid debt or limit the amount of the bond.  In fact, over 700 people showed up to influence the inclusion of a new high school in Lehi at a single meeting.

I am opposed to continued debt.  So, why would I vote in favor of the bond? Have I been corrupted? Bought? Co-opted? Having voted for me, I'd be saying, "What could she have been THINKING?" To change the direction of government requires a massive manifestation of the will of the people. I want us to get out of debt, whether through austerity or a less-painful, calculated plan. I do not find the status quo acceptable. However, the only way the debt status quo will change is if the vast majority of people are willing to do the "hard thing". The only way to get a commitment of the people is through a bond election.

I see three main perspectives on the bond.  Which one are you?

Position 1.) I am comfortable with the way things are.  I may not like the idea of debt, but this is how it has always been done.  We need more schools, updated buildings, seismic fixes, and weight rooms.  The bond isn't for very much money, and I am happy with the status quo.

Position 2.) I would love to get out of debt.  However, there are certain things that are needed right now, e.g. schools for growth, seismic fixes.  We don't have a system in place to take care of the current needs without additional debt.  The bond is a necessary "evil", but a debt-reduction plan needs to be in place to stop the cycle right away.  I am willing to make difficult decisions over the long term, but the immediate needs require bonding.  I am inclined to vote for the bond, but will require the board to put a debt-reduction plan in place  prior to my vote.

Position 3.) Debt is a huge problem, and I am willing to make the extremely difficult decisions necessary to combat the debt.  Without drawing a line in the sand, I am afraid the cycle will never be broken.  I believe we have the necessary tools, creativity, and community-involvement to do whatever is necessary to educate our kids without adding the burden of debt onto their shoulders.

No matter where you fit on the spectrum, your voice needs to be heard in this discussion.  The district will be conducting multiple meetings about the bond throughout September and October to inform you (and, unofficially, encourage you) on the necessity of the bond.  Even though the bond is on the ballot, your attendance and your vocal opinion will have an impact in those meetings, as well as at the ballot box.  I have 3 requests. 1) Please commit to attend at least one meeting and comment.  2) Commit to bringing 2 neighbors with you.  3) Talk with at least 2 of your friends and neighbors about this issue.  (Shameless plug: have them sign up for my facebook page, blog, and/or email.) 

If the bond doesn't pass, would we find creative ways to educate our kids with these limitations?  Yes.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Because of the layering of the debt, there is a point at which we could borrow money for projects without increasing taxes.  Would we be able to do all the projects we want?  No.  Would we be able to prioritize and pay for some of them?  Yes.  Could we get creative with double sessions, more online options, and giving kids credit for extra-curricular activities they are doing already?  Sure.  There is never just one option.  Are you, the people, willing to go through that difficult process with us so we don't need to go into debt?  I await your response on Nov. 8. 


  1. I will be voting for the bond, although I don't like the "mega-schools" and "Taj-mahal" buildings that get built. I think we need to build smaller schools closer to the people. But I also agree that we need the seismic repairs done soon, too.

    I see all sides of #1, #2, & #3. I agree that debt is bad, but there are times that it is either necessary and/or warranted. With the growth we have had, we haven't been able to build up money to build all the schools we need right away, thus making bonding necessary. If/when the growth slows down, I do hope we can someday pay down the debt and start saving.

    I also feel that eventually, we are going to need to divide the district so individual areas can decide what is best for their own children.

  2. I will be voting for the bond as well- To my thinking, a bond makes sense, because those who will be using the new schools (ie, have a new home in the school's boundaries) will also be paying for at least part of it.
    The solution I would really like to see is figuring out how to get the legislature to allow the school district to charge an impact fee on new home construction. We do it for roads and utilities to service new subdivisions- if they need new schools, too, they should help pay for them.

  3. I feel any kind of debt is bad, especially now with the state of our economy. You know the neighbors that have all the toys in the world, who continually have to buy to keep up their status. Our district has become this neighbor we all are going to have to bail out, because of their impulsive, lack of self disciple behavior! It is high time we call a spade a spade and face reality. Prosperity does not accompany debt. The adults in the room need to speak up and tell the children to STOP the spending. Either we live within our means or "let the consequences follow".


  4. I totally agree with thebritishRcomg. We need to exercise creativity and frugality. "Our district has become this neighbor"...truer words never spoken!

  5. I am disappointed that no discussions about splitting Alpine School District came up in relation to the bond. If Eagle Mountain or Lehi want a new high school every 5 years, great! But they should pay for it. In addition, I agree with Wendy that Alpine School District should try to fund new schools out of existing revenue instead of debt - I think much wiser decisions would be made, and a much more cost effective approach would be used in building school facilities that are literally Taj Mahals. Finally, any school that needs seismic upgrades should be spun off as a charter school, and then the parents of that school can decide if they would prefer to spend $10 million for seismic upgrades that are very expensive and unlikely to save even one life (since you are much more likely to die from drinking soda than an earthquake) and instead use that vast expense to pay teachers based on performance. And don't even get me started on how 559 employees make over $100,000 a year at Alpine School District - I propose we reduce by 20% every employee at ASD making over $100,000/year who doesn't directly teach students, and use that money to pay for at least one new school. If those employees don't like that pay cut, they are welcome to go find better paying jobs in the private sector.

  6. Wendy, I believe you should not have voted "For" this bond because no matter what you're blog says your vote is being trumpeted by ASD as a big message of overwhelming majority voted "For." Debt, especially at this juncture of the game, is not a good move. We need to punt to allow us to not be so much in the negative (debt) and force ASD to be more strategic in its approach.

    ASD needs to approach this and all other future decisions much like they would their own money. Having an ASD credit card with limits that increase every year through bonds such as this doesn't provide ASD with attributes, skills and values necessary to empathize and relate to home and business owners that must make drastic changes due to current economic conditions. The current system is perfectly designed to allow ASD to make decisions that makes no sense given current economic conditions. We need to help them learn these important skills so they can grow and develop to be better leaders by being more innovate in their thinking and approach.

    It seems they subscribe to OBAMANOMICS -- The answer to debt is more debt.