|Frequently Asked Questions|
Each facility faces a number of problems. Please click on these links to learn more about the challenges unique to each site:
In 2006 at the request of the Board of Education, school district staff conducted a thorough “in-house” analysis of maintenance and operational needs, as well as school buildings and other facility shortfalls and safety issues. The results of this analysis were shocking in terms of variety and severity of problems.
Most of our schools were hastily built in the 1950’s and early 1960’s during a period of great expansion of the student population during the uranium boom, before modern building and safety codes were in place. With the exception of the high school and bus barn/maintenance facility, it became clear that the district had serious structural, building systems (electrical, heating and ventilation, etc.) and grounds problems that were not being met by the meager annual capital outlay budget.
To get a professional analysis of the extent of the problems, in 2007 the school district contracted with an architecture and engineering (A/E) firm to request a full assessment of all of the district’s facilities. Five firms bid on the proposal, and MHTN, an A/E firm specializing in public school master planning and design, was selected. Their analysis gave us a clearer understanding of the problems and a path toward developing a plan to address those problems.
MHTN Architects has provided architectural services in Utah for over 80 years, with a core business being the design of innovative primary and secondary school facilities in the intermountain West. They also provide master planning services. For the assessment of our facilities, they utilized in-house and outside experts in structural, utilities and value engineering; HVAC, building and state of the art educational systems and cost estimations.
MHTN Architects, SLC, and their associates in the engineering, mechanical, and electrical fields conducted a rigorous survey of our existing schools' conditions, safety issues, and non-code compliance.
The recommendations state that three out of our four schools (Red Rock, HMK, and the Middle School) and the District Office should be replaced. The Facilities Assessment is available to the community, at the public library, Castle Valley Town Hall, the School District office, and the administration office of each school. The executive summary can be viewed at this link.
Merely renovating them would cost 75% of new building costs and still leave us with non code-compliant facilities. In addition, ongoing energy costs to heat, cool, and protect renovated schools would soon reach and surpass that of newly-built schools in total cost investment. Renovating would also require an extra $2-3 million in temporary classroom housing costs during each school's renovation. MHTN states that the two schools needing immediate attention are Red Rock and HMK, built in 1958 and 1955 respectively. The School Board has studied these recommendations in depth and created a priority list of needed facilities, as well as the cost to the taxpayer to bond for them. The Board is now seeking input from GCSD teachers, administrators and staff, and the community on this prioritized list, what we can accomplish beginning in 2008, and what might need to wait several more years for a future bond (including the escalated costs in building those new facilities down the line).
[Back to Top] 5. What are the district's current priorities?
The plan being developed will take many years to complete, since many of the district’s facilities are so old and out of date and the cost of construction so high. This will likely take more than one school bond to rectify existing problems. Here is the priority order of facility improvement or replacement being recommended by the school board:
1. One new K-6 Elementary School (to replace Red Rock and HMK Elementaries)
2. Repair money for existing facilities
3. New Vocational Tech school
4. Rebuild or replace Middle School
5. New Field House
6. Replace District Office
Of course! Although the School Board will make the ultimate decision about what buildings to bond for, we are actively seeking your input between now and April to help inform that decision.
Red Rock and HMK are over fifty years old, and have been remodeled multiple times in the past. Former remodels were done with small budgets and only immediate needs were taken into consideration. We are now way beyond the “duct tape and bailing wire” stage, and renovation would not fix even half of our problems. In addition, any major renovation would have to meet today's rigorous code standards. We would still be left with "old schools" that require far more energy costs to heat, cool, and protect renovated schools. These costs would soon reach and surpass that of newly-built schools in total cost investment. Renovating would also require an extra $2-3 million in temporary classroom housing during each school’s renovation.
If we were to pour money into renovation, we would still find ourselves needing to build new schools down the line. It would be a waste of tens of millions of dollars in the long run, and those new buildings might costs three to four times as much as if we build new buildings soon. MHTN says that renovation would cost at least 75% of what it costs to build new schools, and we’d still be behind current Code, utility cost savings, and all the district’s ongoing needs for future growth, modern technology, and advanced curriculum. In particular, we would have no more room for technological facilities and space for computers essential to 21st century education and testing (all testing in the future will need to be done on computers—we simply don’t have enough room to test big groups of students at the same time).
What would building new schools give us that renovation can’t?
- safe, code-compliant buildings (ADA, EPA, Fire and Life Safety)
- energy efficient buildings that save money for the life of the systems installed (high tech controls, ground source HVAC, solar)
- environmentally-friendly buildings (green buildings with LEED certifications)
- safe buildings to protect our children from other dangers, such as unwanted access
- schools that will give our children the best, research-proven environments to learn and compete in the 21st century’s job market.
Renovation would require:
- Adding shear walls to all existing un-reinforced masonry buildings, digging down below the foundation to secure the new walls and completely enclosing the old load-bearing walls from foundation to roof
- New electrical systems throughout the buildings
- New telephone and computer wiring throughout the buildings
- New plumbing throughout throughout the buildings
- New mechanical systems throughout the buildings
- New kitchens in each building
- New roofs on every building
- Adding fire sprinklers in ceilings throughout the buildings
- Upgrading fire alarms, smoke detectors & communication systems throughout the buildings.
All of the above would in addition require new architectural finishes on ceilings, floors and walls, bringing the total cost up to at least 75% of new building costs.
Ironically, the answer is no. Renovating our schools would require far more costly architectural plans than building new ones!
Grand County property taxes make bond payments monthly. Therefore, there will be a property tax increase of approixmately $113 per $100,000 of a home's assessed value*. The average home in Grand County is valued by the County Assesor at $152,541. Therfore, the average home owner will pay an additional $172.66 per year or $3.32 per week to build and repair needed educational facilities.
Business owners will pay an additional $205 per $100,000 of a business's assessed value. The business valued at $152,541 will pay $313.92 per year or $6.04 per week to build and repair needed educational facilities. Out of county second-home owners will pay the business property tax rate.
Primary residences (where we live, either if we own it or if we are renting it from someone) are taxed at 55% of assessed value. The house that you live in that you own is taxed at the 55% of assessed value rate. Also, if you own a house that you are renting out to someone else who lives there as a primary residence with a one year lease, the County Assessor should have it taxed at the 55% of assessed value rate not the 100% rate. Call Diana Carroll for clarification at the County Clerk’s office. (435-259-1321)
Second homes that do not serve as a primary residence and businesses are taxed at 100% of assessed value.
(*The assessed value is considerably lower than the actual value of a home, or the amount for which a house might be sold in the current marketplace.)
There are several programs that help reduce the burden on low-income property owners. These programs have been set up under legislative mandate. Information about these relief and exemption programs are available at the Grand County Treasurer’s Office at the Courthouse, or by calling them at 259-1338. These programs include:
- Circuit Rider program (low income property owners)
- Veteran’s tax relief
- Blind tax relief
- Indigent tax relief
Utah school districts finance the construction costs of new school buildings and other capital projects through the issuance of general obligation bonds. General obligation bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the school district. The school district determines the specific new school building project(s) and holds a bond election to ask the citizens to support the project. A majority of yes votes are required to pass the bond. After bonds are issued, the school district levies a specific property tax to collect the required monies to pay the annual principal and interest payments. These bonds have the support of the State of Utah through the Utah School Guarantee Program. Bonds are issued at low tax-exempt rates.
The school district will continue to pay for the high school bonds through July 1, 2015. From the original amount of $9,700.000 the district owes $5,290,000 principle and $1,043,665 interest. If passed, this new bond will absorb the old High School bond debt and as a result will reduce the interest rate on what we are currently paying for the High School.
Here is an interesting and very important note about bond payments over time. Assessed values have increased steadily since the Grand County High School bond was passed in 1995. The cost to the homeowner for their share of the high school bond in 1995 was $105.54 per $100,000 assessed home value. Today, because of both increased property valuations and added growth in Grand County between 1995 and today, the cost to the homeowner for their share of annual bond payments per $100,000 is only $45.47, less than half of what we initially paid in 1995. With continued county growth and increasing property values, a similar reduction in actual taxes paid by the taxpayer each year, both home owner and business owner, should drop for this new bond as it has with the High School bond over the last 13 years. The same reduction in taxes paid also applies to business owners.
In 1995, a bond was passed by Grand County citizens to fund construction of a new Grand County High School, rehabilitate the old high school so it could function as a middle school, and nominally upgrade the existing Vo-Tech building. The planning done for that project was for the immediate and obvious need for a high school and to retire the badly deteriorated 1930’s-era Grand County Middle School (which is today’s City Hall on Center Street). Unfortunately, due to the desire to keep the bond amount low, a new vocational school was not constructed adjacent to the new high school as originally planned, and items were cut from the High School budget, including a gym large enough to house regional and state athletic events. The result was a new High School that was completely full the day it was put to use, and a still marginal Vo-Tech center.
Under the first phase of the current plan, a new elementary school (or two elementary schools) would be built. The existing middle school would be improved to address health and safety issues and a new Vo-Tech building would be built adjacent to the High School. Programs there would include auto and wood shops, and family and consumer science. This building could house some current programs now located in the high school (such as art and language classes). This would in turn create much-needed additional classroom space in the high school. It would also alleviate the need for high school students to walk across the Middle School campus (or drive around to the Middle School campus) to access Vo-Tech, as is done today.
Perhaps a better question is, what do we as citizens owe our society and our next generation? We all pay the same garbage bill, even though some of us average a small bag of garbage per week and some of us average four or five bags per week. Yet to maintain social hygiene in our community, we share the burden. Likewise we share the responsibility of creating a literate society - a society that can maintain a beneficial quality of life for our nation's citizens as a whole. Research is clear, children who are literate are less likely to later fill our prisons and social support systems as adults. It takes, by far, less tax dollars spent 'up front' to educate our children to be successful citizens than it costs to support adults later in life who require extensive social intervention or social program support. If taxpayers are unwilling to invest 'up front', the cost comes back to haunt us. Finally, key to economic development is a literate workforce. This plays out at all levels - locally, nationally and globally. If indeed it takes an educated public to create and drive a healthy economy, we all play a role in supporting education to this end.
Currently students experience whatever condition is encountered during the day in each facility. If the boiler or heating system is down, students must wear coats or sweaters. If the plumbing systems back up, students must endure the inconvenience. If the classroom has only two electrical outlets, the teacher is limited in the use of technology for instruction. Often students who receive supplementary instruction are crowded into make-shift, nook-and-cranny ‘classroom’ spaces created throughout the building. Sometimes instruction occurs on the stage or in the cafeteria. Staff members work hard to provide motivating learning environments within the limits of the aging facilities.
In building new facilities, space will be included to meet all programatic needs (English Language Learners, Tiered Model Instruction / Title I, Special Education, Specialized Communication and Hearing, etc.). Heating and cooling systems as well as electrical needs will be addressed in ways that provide students comfortable, well lit and instructionally progressive learning areas. New buildings will be designed to be expandable should long-term needs arise that require expansion. Safety concerns we currently have, including troublesome ‘pick up / drop off’ zones, limited in-school communication systems, etc. will be resolved in the design of the new school. Thus, the general well-being and safety of students will be improved. Use this metaphor: If a student’s education over time could be compared to a road trip across the United States, what would be a more efficient and effective vehicle for the journey – an ’58 Chevy that is constantly breaking down and basically not adequate for the trip, or an automobile built in 2008 with the needs of today’s motorists’ in mind?
Actually, student population size has remained fairly stable over past two decades, increasing or decreasing only slightly over those years. Today, all of our schools are essentially full – the only way to accommodate more students is to increase class size, or add portable classrooms as we have already done at all schools. The proposed elementary school will be designed to house the existing student population, and if needed, accommodate additional students by increasing class size or adding on to the end of existing grade-level wings or pods. If a Vo-Tech school is also built during this first phase, some existing high school programs (probably art and science labs) could be moved into the new Vo-Tech building, which will provide additional badly needed classroom space in the high school. The high school program will be much more efficient and logical with the new Vo-Tech school being located adjacent to the High School campus, instead of on the other side of the Middle School as it is today.
In addition, the district owns property near the Spanish Valley Arena that, at a future date, could accommodate an elementary school.
MHTN architects tell us that building costs have increased by about 15 to 20% a year in the past three years. Assuming at least cost increases of 6-7% over the next decade, a building costing $31 million in 2009 would cost $35.2 million in 2011, $39.6 million in 2013, $44.5 million in 2015, $50 million in 2017, and $56.2 million in 2019! These cost increases will raise the tax burden on property owners in Grand County.
Another way of looking at it, the Grand County High School facility build in 1995 cost $9.5 million. If we had put that project off until today, the high school would cost $23.25 million. In 1995 the Vocational Center was removed from the High School bond to save $3.1 million. Today it will cost $6.6 million to construct a basic vocational center.
URM is “un-reinforced masonry,” bricks and mortar without reinforcing bars (like rebar) in their centers to offer stability. Red Rock, HMK, the Middle School, CR Sundwall Preschool and the District office were all constructed of URM, and these facilities’ load-bearing walls are cracking due to settling, inadequate building joints, and use of glass on weight-bearing fronts—ancient construction practices that would never pass current building code. MHTN tells us that in a seismic event, which we haven’t had for hundreds of years but for which we are long overdue, portions of these schools would likely collapse. Similarly, in the event of a significant wind event directly striking the building (like a tornado or similar downdraft) major failure could occur.
The District did consider remodeling the old Middle School and had it assessed in the 1980s. The remodeling estimate was 2.5 million dollars. But the issue went well beyond the Middle School.
THE PRIMARY ISSUE at that time was not the condition of the Middle School but, instead, the condition of the High School. At that time the High School was located behind City Market (in the current Middle School). It was crowded with over 400 students - overflowing its seams. The facility was not only overcrowded, the space was instructionally inadequate. (The space still is instructionally inadequate, but at least now has only half the students.) The District decided to bond to build a new High School. In other words, the first and foremost problem focused on conditions at the High School. The second big problem focused on the deteriorated condition of the ‘old’ Middle School.
At that time, building a new High School would not only solve the existing High School problem, it could solve the Middle School problem in that monies would not have to be expended to remodel the old Middle School – students could just be moved into the old High School space once the High School was moved over to the new facility.
- Had the District elected to remodel the old Middle School, the District would have still needed to bond for a new High School. The District would likely have sold the old High School building (behind City Market) and put money toward remodeling the old Middle School.
So – the District had 2 scenarios from which to choose:
- Bond to build a new High School and move the Middle School into the vacated building behind City Market.*
- Bond to build a new High School, sell the vacated building behind City Market and put the property sale money toward remodeling the old Middle School.*
*Either choice would have resulted in the taxpayer paying little or nothing toward the Middle School facility.
Needless to say, the District and voters of Grand County, through passage of the High School Bond, chose the first option because the vacated facility behind City Market was in better condition than the old Middle School. There were many other considerations in the decision to move the Middle School into the old High School facility. For instance, a single-story school is easier to supervise than a two story building; playing fields were GREAT compared to the cement the students ‘hung out’ on between the old middle school building and the gym – students couldn’t go across to the ballpark because the school couldn’t provide supervision of the old facility plus supervision of the ballpark; and, the facility behind City Market was located away from the jail and sheriff’s office and was, therefore, a safer location for children.
Our community is planning or building so many new facilities, but most of this new public building construction is not a cost to the local taxpayer:
1. New City Recreation Facility (pool) – Paid for by CIB no-interest loans that will be paid off with City revenues and user fees. NO TAX INCREASE.
2. New Hospital – Paid for by revenue bonds and private donations. NO TAX INCREASE.
3. Renovations to City Hall – Paid for by low-interest CIB loans, by city monies on hand, and by the sale of city properties. NO TAX INCREASE.
4. Star Hall Renovation – Paid for by CIB grants and private donations. NO TAX INCREASE.
5. New Fire Station – Paid for by no-interest CIB grants and/or loans to be paid back by existing revenues. NO TAX INCREASE.
6. New Public Library – This is our community's only new facility that required a property tax increase.