Utahns don't just pay lip service to the value of public education. They consistently show their commitment to their local neighborhood schools. They volunteer. Parents get involved in PTA and other organizations. And they go even further, most often approving district borrowing to maintain education quality.
Voters in the Murray and Weber school districts are the latest to support going into debt to improve their children's schools. The two bond issues approved Tuesday are needed to meet the demands of growth and improve safety at schools in the two districts.
Record-low interest rates and relatively low construction costs make this a good time to complete these necessary construction projects.
Murray voters passed a $33 million bond to build a new Hillcrest Junior High and add seismic upgrades to other schools. Nearly 70 percent voted in favor of a $58 annual property tax increase on a $200,000 house, the average home value for the area.
The existing Hillcrest Junior High was built in 1948 and has been remodeled multiple times. It is inconvenient, but more important, it doesn't meet the safety standards of newer school buildings.
Superintendent Steven Hirase said the additions to the building were built without a master plan, leading to the building's "poor" design.
"You must take two different elevators to get to the top floor," said Hirase, who said the inadequately planned construction contributes to the building's poor heat circulation and creates "many hallways that do not lead to anything."
Also part of the bond issue, $4 million will pay for seismic upgrades at all other schools in the district except Murray High School. They are all between 31 and 59 years old.
Farther north, Weber School District voters approved a $65 million bond to build four schools to replace five existing ones: West Weber Elementary, Wahlquist Junior High, North Park Elementary, and Marlon Hills Elementary and Club Heights Elementary, which will be consolidated. The average age of the schools being replaced is 68 years. The oldest is 84. Their safety features are outdated, and the district has added 1,649 students since its last bond election.
Additions also will be made to Rocky Mountain and North Ogden junior high schools. Property owners will not see a property tax increase because the district is restructuring its current debt to include the new bond.
The two bonds will bring the districts money for much-needed projects. Voters made the right choices.