On the ballot, more than $600 million in school bonds

OGDEN, Utah -- T.O. Smith Elementary is falling apart.

Whenever it rains or snows, parts of the ceiling fall off. Teachers meet in a supply closet that doubles as a conference room and a room to put sick students.

Teachers meet inside a supply room at T.O. Smith Elementary in Ogden. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

The temperature fluctuates because it's on radiant heat, powered by a boiler in the basement. In the gymnasium, there's a circuit board with the old fashioned circuits.

The school, built in 1955, is in bad need of replacement, said Jer Bates, a spokesman for the Ogden School District.

"Most of our elementary schools were built in the 1950s or early 1960s," he said. "Therefore, they're all aging or deteriorating to the point where we need them to be replaced."

The school district is urging voters to approve an $87 million bond next week (about $11.50 a month on the average property tax bill) to build two new schools and rebuild two others.

"You can only do so much with retrofitting and changing those buildings in their physical capacity, in order to meet up with today's educational demands," he said.

From Ogden to St. George, voters are being asked to approve more than $600 million in school bonds. Ogden's $87 million bond is the cheapest. The Iron County School District is asking voters to approve a $92 million bond for security and new schools; Washington County, one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, is asking for a $125 million bond to build new schools; and the Nebo School District is asking voters to approve a $298 million bond for new schools and to rebuild old ones.

Water damage that's been painted over at Ogden's T.O. Smith Elementary. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Those bonds are in addition to Question 1 on the ballot, which is a 10 cents a gallon gas tax hike to boost education funding statewide.

Each district's bond is different. The Washington County School District's bond, for instance, is tax neutral. That means property taxes wouldn't go up, but stay at the rate they are for several years. The Iron County School District is proposing a $16.60 on the average $217,000 home.

But some are pushing back on the proposed tax hikes. Americans for Prosperity questions why bonding is necessary and argues for better budgeting.

"We're seeing government spending increasing, taxes going up, the cost of living is rising, housing prices are definitely not getting lower, but the one thing that isn't changing is taxpayers' paychecks," said Heather Williamson, the state director for AFP.

In Ogden, they would like to consolidate students into new schools instead of trying to make do with what they have. Bates said they have been able to win over some critics by showing them the problems with the aging schools and explaining why replacing them is critical.

"You can only fight Father Time for so long before Father Time's going to win out," Bates said.

Information on the Ogden School District bond can be found here

Information on the Washington County School District bond can be found here

Information on the Iron County School District bond can be found here

Information on the Nebo School District bond can be found here

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