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$39.5 million referendum may be on November ballot

Jordan voters will likely be asked if the future of Jordan Public Schools should include $39.5 million in campus improvements when they enter the voting booth this fall.

The Jordan Board of Education is in the process of developing a referendum for the November election in order to secure funding for substantial school improvements over the next three years.

The process started last year when a team of about 20 people, including school administrators, teachers, parents and community members, met over the course of 16 months to develop a vision for the future and outline the district’s needs.

They came back with a slate of improvement projects ranging in price from $400,000 to $9.3 million. Funding for the projects has been packaged into three referendum ballot items. The first item will ask voters whether or not they support raising the tax levy to fund the projects. The other two items ask voters if they approve bonding for two separate slates of projects.

Tax increase

The first referendum ballot item asks voters if they approve of raising the student levy by $300. Taxpayers currently allocate $724 per student annually — the standard minimum that the state says schools are entitled to. The statewide average is $1,202 per student. The metro average is even higher, Superintendent Matt Helgerson said.

The $300 increase does not necessarily reflect an exact tax impact, as several factors go into the allocation, including state aid equalization. The school district will ask voters to raise the levy to $1,024 per student annually. Helgerson said the following measures are incumbent upon the levy being raised:

Bonding question 1

The second ballot item would ask voters to approve $24.5 million in bonding for a number of campus renovations, additions and new buildings. Included is the construction of an early learning center on a parcel of land owned by the district. The $8.5 million building would house Kids Company (before- and after-school program) and pre-K programs, moving them out of the elementary school. The district is calling this new parcel along Highway 21 the “south campus.”

The elementary school would undergo $6.3 in classroom, infrastructure and cosmetic renovations. An additional $700,000 would go toward expanding the cafeteria by downsizing the gym and turning it into a multi-purpose room. A new elementary gym would be added onto the school for an estimated $2.1 million.

Helgerson said the long-term plan is to eventually turn the elementary school into a community space that would include district offices, health services, community education and Summit Academy programming. As student population continues to grow, the district would explore building a two-story elementary school on the south campus. Initial estimates for a new elementary school building, which is not a part of this year’s proposed referendum, are $42.7 million.

Another item is $3.6 million in high school renovations. Part of that would include moving the front office closer to the high school entrance to increase safety measures.

Another $1 million would be used to reconfigure school and CERC parking lots and road access. The district and Jordan city council have agreed to partner on a $24,193 traffic management study that will analyze congestion, particularly during pickup and drop-off hours, along Sunset Drive and Aberdeen Avenue. The two parties have agreed to split the cost of the study.

Rounding out the first slate of projects, the district is looking to allocate $400,000 to build a parking lot along Hope Avenue and $800,000 to build a community recreation field on the south campus.

Bond question 2

The third and final item on the referendum ballot would ask voters to approve $15 million in bonding for auditorium renovations and a recreation building.

A $5.5 million high school auditorium renovation would add 200 seats and updated lighting and sound technology to the theater. Helgerson said the school needs special permission from the fire marshal to bring in additional seating for popular events like the spring pops concert.

The $9.3 million recreation building would be on the new south campus near the proposed early learning center. Early concepts are a multi-purpose recreation building that includes a turf field for various sports along with golf and archery simulators. Helgerson said the district may pursue a partnership with the city to establish and manage the building, similar to CERC.

Looking ahead

If the referendum is approved, construction would begin between 2020 and 2022.

A community informational meeting is set for June 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. The district will provide information on the projects and their potential tax impacts, as well as concepts and possible renderings of the alterations and additions.

The school board is expected to approve a resolution pursuing the referendum prior to the informational meeting. The last time the school district held a referendum was in March 2014 to secure funding for CERC and remodel the middle school.

Michael Strasburg / Photos by Michael Strasburg  

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