Voters headed to approving school bonds

Granite, Davis » Officials say taxes won't increase.
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Voters in Davis and Granite school districts were apparently feeling generous Tuesday, approving borrowing half-a-billion dollars to build and upgrade schools.

But prospects for Duchesne County School District's $49 million bond proposal looked grim with 70 percent of the vote counted.

The largest bond -- Granite's $256 million package -- passed by a healthy margin, 58 percent of the vote, according to complete, but unofficial results. Final results won't be verified until later this week.

But Granite officials were jubilant late Tuesday.

"It was a big unknown, because we haven't had a bond election in 26 years," said Granite spokesman Ben Horsley. "But we did a lot of communication to help people understand this would not result in a tax increase."

Granite intends to use $17 million in existing construction funds to pay back the bond over 20 years.

Most of the money, about $61 million, will be spent installing air conditioning in 51 schools. The rest will pay for three new schools and to completely rebuild five others, including Granger and Olympus high schools.

Architects are already working on the Granger rebuild, said Horsley. Next up is Olympus.

"Obviously we want to get started on air conditioning as soon as possible," said Horsley. "But the bulk of that will be done in the summer months when school isn't in session."

Voters also endorsed Davis County School District's quest to borrow $250 million, which was passing by 62 percent with 90 percent of the vote, said Davis spokesman Christopher Williams.

"We're feeling pretty good," said Williams. "Our voters have always come out in support of education. We appreciate their confidence."

The bond is being piggybacked onto existing debt and will not result in a tax increase. Much of it will pay for new schools and classrooms to accommodate rapid enrollment growth, about 1,000 new kids a year.

Duchesne district officials were still holding out hope late Tuesday that their $49 million plan would pass. But business administrator Dee Miles acknowledged that with the recession, "Maybe this wasn't the right time."

The money was earmarked to rebuild two high schools and a new elementary school.