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Park City seeking $14 million bond for new school

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Posted at 1:10 PM, Sep 13, 2022

PARK CITY - The Park City School District is hoping a fourth time is the charm on a new school bond proposal.

Three previous bond proposals have been shot down, and now debate is already swirling about a new, smaller proposal from the district. The school district has been asking voters for a new school for more than 20 years.

And there is a strong frustration from some supporters of the bond. The president of the Park City Parent Teacher Association says she's confused by those still choosing to vote no on the bonds.

“These are kids, they need to spread out...when you cram them into these smaller size rooms or into the modulars, there are issues that are going to develop," said Renee Nelson, PTA president.

According to the district superintendent, some classes are now held in closets. Others are held in three modular buildings, which causes a concern for safety. The modular for seventh- and eighth-grade classes is across the street from the school and does not have any running water or bathrooms, so students must cross a street to get to the main building. And the Ag building is a block away from the school.

“So, they’re back and forth in between buildings,” Park City Schools Superintendent Dan Grabowska said.

That’s just one reason the superintendent says this new bond must pass.

“Our district needs these things. We need the school; we need the space,” said Grabowska.

Last May, the district's proposed $16.75 million bond failed by about 100 votes. This time around, school officials decided to reduce the ask from taxpayers. The cost of the new proposed plan is $14.45 million. The elementary school would receive $5.08 million and the high school would get $9.43 million.

“We had long discussions about what to do, listened to comments from people that voted in the last election, and we decided to go for the bond again but make cuts to it,” Grabowska said. “So, it’s a 20% cut roughly in the facility.”

And many things were cut from the previous proposal.

“So, the gym went from 900 seats closer to 600. We cut out some of the locker rooms. So we won’t be able to run tournaments in there," Grabowska said.

Park City is set to transition to a Class B school next year. The proposed music room, kitchen and ag program have also been made smaller compared to the May proposal. Classrooms will remain the same size.

But some say now is not the time for the district to be asking for a new school. State Sen. David Howard, a Republican from Park City, recently sent a letter to voters, asking residents to vote no to the new bonds.

"The School Board needs to rethink this, and do the minimum needed to keep our schools in good shape over the next few years until inflation and taxes are under control," Howard stated in the letter.

The letter was sent out on Howard's official letterhead, causing many to question if he violated any legislative ethics rules. The Deputy Director of Legal Services for Montana State Legislature Jaret Coles said Howard did not under the state's Rules of Conduct for Public Officers and Public Employees.

Howard will term out as a senator at the end of this year. Coles noted that a complaint could be filed with the Legislative Ethics Committee, but they do not meet until January, when Howard will already be termed-out.

“Doing the minimum for the kids is just not something that’s in my blood. I don’t understand it,” Grabowska said when asked about the letter.

If the 30-year bond passes, it will cost owners of a $200,000 home $463.05 a year.

“We still know it's expensive. We understand that,” said Grabowska.

But bond supporters say it is worth it and will be a long-term solution to help kids in the community.

“Everyone needs to be on the same page because the people writing those pages now are our kids,” said Nelson.

Ballots were mailed out on Sept. 7 and are due back by Sept. 27.

First Look: Park City schools return to voters with bond request