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Alpine seeking support for bond

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Alpine School District officials have been busy this month exhorting parents at graduation ceremonies and town meetings to vote for a $66.9 million bond and leeway proposal.

Hoping to bolster support in influential circles, Superintendent Steven C. Baugh met with mayors and city council members from northern Utah County cities Wednesday to explain how funds would be spent if the revenue package gains approval by voters on June 23.And most liked what they heard.

"We want you to vote yes," Baugh said to about 20 elected officials from Alpine, Lehi, American Fork, Highland, Lehi and Pleasant Grove. "But that's not our role. Our role is to inform."

A simple majority vote for both ballot items would increase property taxes $30.50 on a house valued at $100,000 for the first year. In three years, taxes would gradually rise to $63.50.

But if only the bond passes, then property taxes on a $100,000 house would increase $14 annually.

"We should leave now and just say do it," said Highland Councilwoman Teri Jerman, when told about the low monthly bond cost to taxpayers.

Using $30 million of the bond, at least four new elementary schools could be built, with plans in the works for one in northeast Orem and another on the border of Alpine and Highland.

Baugh said "hot spots" of growth will be studied to determine future school sites.

The growing 45,000-student district already has some elementary schools servicing some 1,100 students. Such a high number is unheard of in other states, Baugh said.

"You save big bucks when you have schools of 1,000 and 1,100," he said. "It's a lot cheaper. But it's also too large for a school."

Some $25 million also would be set aside to renovate 11 of the oldest elementary schools, six secondary schools and upgrade facilities at other schools. Land would cost about $5 million.

Roofs, parking lots, plumbing and electrical wiring need to be fixed in many schools. At one campus, Baugh said, faculty who use a microwave in a break room short-circuit the lab's computers.

"People will say, `Why can't you do this with your operating budget?' Well, the truth is, when you are 40th out of 40 (districts) in state funds and you keep salaries in the upper 25 percent to attract and keep good teachers, you just don't have the funds," Baugh said.

Some $7 million of the leeway would reduce the student-to-teacher ratio by five students. Such a reduction would especially help in junior high, where class sizes average one teacher to 27.5 students. Math and English classes also are targeted for reduction.

Leeway funds also would pay for a $3.4 million technology upgrade and $1.2 million personnel and utility costs for new schools. Officials also want to spend $1.6 million on literacy and safety programs.

Baugh said the proposal is imperative to the future of the district, which is struggling to accommodate growth. More than 51,800 students are expected to enroll in less than four years.

American Fork Councilwoman Juel Belmont asked if district officials considered senior citizens on fixed incomes while pushing for the bond's passage and increased property taxes.

But Mayor Ted Barratt countered that most residents, even if their children and grandchildren don't attend school in Alpine, are willing to support education.

"I think a vast majority don't think that way," he said. "Somebody paid for them, and they want to do their share."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bonding history for Alpine District

Voter history on bonding in the Alpine School District:

1972: Voters approved $8 million in bonds to build schools. Bonds retired in 1985.

1974: Voters approved $4 million in bonds to build schools. Bonds retired in 1989.

1975: Voters approved $12 million in bonds to build schools. Bonds retired in 1992.

1978: Voters approved $15 million in bonds to build schools. Bonds retired in 1995.

1987: The district restructured the existing bond schedule. On March 15, the district issued $6.5 million to "advance fund" outstanding bonds with maturity dates of March 15, 1988. That allowed the district a one-time windfall of $6.5 million. To pay for this, the principal payments were reallocated to 1997, 1998 and 1999. This readjusted the debt schedule and moved the final payment for bonds from 1998 to 1999, an extension of one year.

1990: The district restructured the existing bond schedule. On March 15, the district issued $22.8 million refunding general obligation bonds. This allowed the March 15, 1990 principal payments to "shift" to the end of the payment cycle. This, along with other refunding savings, allowed the district to achieve a short-term budgeting savings of about $4.2 million. It did not elongate the payment schedule past 1999. But it did restructure the payments through 1999 to be about $7.5 million each year for principal and interest.

1992: Voters approved $30 million in bonds, which will be retired in March 2007. Two junior high schools were built, two schools were remodeled and land and portables were purchased.

1994: Voters approved $98 million in bonds, which will be retired in March 2010. Six schools were built and renovation money given to several schools. Land and portable classrooms also purchased.