Saturday, June 23, 2012

Public Demands Added to 2011 Alpine School District Bond in order to get it passed

Public Demands Added to 2011 Alpine District Bond

The people have been heard. Now what?
Alpine School District members on Tuesday said they have added potential projects -- but not money -- to a proposed $210 million bond proposal after hearing public feedback. May 18, 2011
Meanwhile:  Orem elected officials and city staff are HIDING the fact that
 Orem City needs a much larger property tax increase to make the
 UTOPIA payment in 2012, so voters have no idea that the Alpine 
School District Property Tax increase is only a small portion of the property
 tax increase facing Orem residents.
Does this represent incompetence, or corruption?   Did the city council
 and mayor know what was happening or did the city staff keep
 the facts from the elected officials?  Do the residents of Orem have
a right to know why Orem City did not include the property tax
increase on the 2011 ballot with the Alpine School District bond?

2011 Alpine School District Bond Phased in over 4 years

Why do we need a bond in ASD?
  1. Growth: Since the bond passed in 2006, Alpine School District has grown by 9,820 students and is projected to grow an additional 10,000 students in the next five years.
  2. Renovations, repairs, and additions
  3. Seismic and safety needs
There will be a minimal increase for taxpayers phased in over four years. The Board is hosting a series of meetings to educate ASD Stakeholders’ about the bond.
Open Community Meetings will be held at 7:00 p.m. on the following days:
October 6 at Orem Junior High School
October 13 at Vista Heights Middle School
October 27 at Mtn. Ridge Junior High School
Open Employee Meetings will be held at 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the following days:
October 26 at Lehi High School
November 1 at Mountain View High School
The Board of Education is also sponsoring PTA/SCC meetings as well as faculty meetings at each of the 79 individual schools in Alpine School District.
For more information:  (Note Alpine Schools below has a link to all green points)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Orem Residents Voted on $210 million tax increase November 2011

Photo from  New Orem High School

ALPINE — Two Utah school districts are asking taxpayers to approve millions of dollars in bonds this election season to raise money for building projects.
The Alpine school board is asking voters to approve a $210 million, 15-year bond in order to address rapid enrollment growth within the district as well as seismic concerns. If approved by voters on Nov. 8, the Alpine bond would be phased in over five years. The highest property tax increase would equal out to about $36 on a $224,500 home — the median home value in the district — or about $3 a month.
Asking for $210 million
    $36/annual property tax increase on $224,500 home
Those planned repairs include renovations on nine schools built before 1970. Alpine voters approved a $200 million bond in 2001 and a $230 million bond in 2006. Combined, the two previous bonds funded the construction of 15 new elementary schools, three new middle schools, one new high school, one high school re-build and 46 renovation projects.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kevin Stratton Leases 120 acres from Orem City tax payers for $540.00 annually

Cascade Golf
Kevin Stratton leases 120 acres of the Cascade Golf Course in Orem for $540.00 a year, and receives a special agricultural rate on the water.  Bruce Chesnut, said Orem City owns all the acres of both competing Golf Courses in Orem, and Orem City is not losing any money on the 275 combined acres of the Cascade Golf Course and Sleepy Ridge Golf Course.

Keven J. Stratton is the proprietor of Cascade Golf Club in Orem, Utah. Stratton has managed the golf course since 1986.
Stratton is also a partner at Smith and Stratton Law Firm, which specializes in business law, real estate and estate planning. In addition, he is a managing member of several Utah Valley-based real estate development companies and manages a farm that is a major supplier of Strattonís Country Store in Orem.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Orem City's Tax Subsidized Sleepy Ridge Golf Course has lost $1.2 million since opening in 2005

Part-owner of the course Keith Holdaway, second from the left, chats with Dave Collins, Darren Collins, and Rylie Birrell as they watch a golfer tee off at the Sleepy Ridge Golf Course in Orem on Thursday, March 29, 2012. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald.

Sleepy Ridge Golf Course advisory commission reported that the golf course has lost $1.2 million since opening in 2005. Revenues in 2011 were $900,000, the lowest of any year, and management has cut all it can to keep the course moving.
"We've hit the mark where we can't cut any more," Holt said in his report.
Sleepy Ridge is not a public course, nor is it subsidized. However, the city is involved. Orem provided the land and water usage and Holt and his partner built the infrastructure and clubhouse to the tune of $12 million. They have a 40-year lease in which Holt can try to recoup his investments rent-free. After the lease is up the entire course and clubhouse belong to Orem city.
Holt said in 2000, when Sleepy Ridge was in development, professional golf prognosticators forecasted about 40,000 rounds a year for the new golf course. They said by 2012 the projected revenues should be at $1.5 million a year. Since that time new golf courses have been added in Cedar Hills, Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, Soldier Hollow in Midway and Lehi’s Thanksgiving Point.  Orem's Cascade Golf Center also added 18 holes.
The initial forecast did not plan for so many additions to the golf community, and they're taking a toll. The study showed that one or two new courses wouldn't hurt, but with several communities hoping to capture money for their general funds through golf courses the market overloaded.
"We're doing better than many," Holt said. He added there are only one or two public courses in the area that are not subsidized.
Two years ago Holt took a trip to Scotland, the home of golf, and came back with grand ideas for a clubhouse. "We designed it to look like the majestic clubhouses from Scotland," Holt said. Clubhouse revenues through rental fees for activities such as weddings, dances and other activities plus the leases on office space are helping to pay for the golf course.

Sleepy Ridge Golf Clubhouse.

Sleepy Ridge Golf

A rock wall lines some of the holes on Orem's Sleepy Ridge Golf Course, which has been in the works for eight years.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

According to a story by Sharon Haddock in the Deseret News April 1, 2005, "Sleepy Ridge Golf Course to Open Without Debt.  

OREM — It's taken Orem eight years to get its 18-hole public golf course ready to open, but when it does — this June — it will open without a penny of taxpayer debt, say officials.
                                           "What will be great for the city is that we'll have no debt, none, no encumbrances at all," said Bruce Chesnut, public works director. "Yet it's within our community as an asset. It's just the opposite of the Cedar Hill's situation."
                                           Cedar Hills bonded for its $7 million mountainside course, intending to lease it to recoup the bond costs and then use it as a money making asset for the city. The leasing company lost its financing and the city is now facing large yearly bond payments as well as operational costs it didn't anticipate.                                                 
                                           As a result, Cedar Hills officials are considering a number of unwelcome options including selling the course at a loss, defaulting on the loan and/or imposing a monthly service fee on each household to help pay off the debt.
                                                           Orem officials began discussing the Sleepy Ridge Golf Course (named after a natural land feature in the area) in 1997 just after the city netted 176 acres of open ground on the west side of the city in a land trade with a group of businessmen known as the ESNET Corp.
                                                           Before that, the land was farmed by the Holdaway and Clegg families of Vineyard.
                                                           The trade secured open space for Orem, but it was also problematical as it contained nearly 50 acres of wetlands that would have to be preserved no matter how the land was developed.
                                                           That meant a lot of negotiations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a good deal of paperwork.
                                                           Developer Golden Holt wanted to build and run the course, but the city wanted to retain some control. That meant more discussion.
                                                           A Golf Course Advisory Committee was set up that includes a City Council member, two city employees, two Orem residents and one of Holt's employees.
                                                           The committee will advise and oversee the course operation.
                                                           "We finalized the agreements two years ago. The dirt finally started to move 14 months ago," said Chesnut.
                                                           Holt is spending $6.75 million to put in the fairways and greens, the perimeter rock walls, the cart paths, the clubhouse and the maintenance sheds. He'll then get to run the course until he's made his investment back. He'll set the green fees, hire the pro and determine which venues come to the course.
                                                           After that, Orem will begin receiving a share of the profits. The city will also provide the course with reclaimed water from its sewage treatment plant that will be mixed with irrigation water to irrigate course, one of the first efforts in Utah County to make use of reclaimed water. The city expects to dramatically reduce landscaping and maintenance costs for the course by using the reclaimed water.
                                                           Homes and condominiums are being developed around the course, taking advantage of the scenic vistas and the serenity.
                                                           Chesnut is optimistic about the golf course's future even though some residents are worried about whether Utah County has saturated the golf market.
                                                           "There's lots of interest. We get lots of calls every day. That market's there," he said. "It's a hidden treasure." Sharon Haddock Deseret News 2005                                                 



Thursday, June 14, 2012

RealtyTrac Inc shows that one in 592 homes were foreclosed in Utah in May

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's foreclosure rate is the 10th highest in the nation.
Data released Thursday by RealtyTrac Inc. shows that one in 592 Utah housing units saw a foreclosure filing in May.
That's an improvement from April, when Utah had the 7th highest foreclosure rate — with one in 419 homes seeing a foreclosure filing.
Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, California, Illinois and Florida had the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
Nationally, RealtyTrac reports just under 206,000 properties had a foreclosure filing in May.
That compares with fewer than 189,000 homes in April.
The firm says the foreclosure increases in various states illustrates that the housing market is still on a bumpy ride toward recovery. posted the following:

“May sees pickup in homes facing foreclosure risk

Posted: Jun 13, 2012 10:28 PM MDT
AP Real Estate Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Lenders initiated foreclosure proceedings against more U.S. homeowners in May, setting the stage for increases in home repossessions and short sales - scenarios that could further weigh down home values in coming months.
Default or scheduled-home-auction notices were filed for the first time against 109,051 homes last month. That's an increase of 12 percent from April and up 16 percent versus May last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
The firm monitors documents filed on properties with mortgages that have gone unpaid. Once that process begins, homes can end up foreclosed-upon, sold at auction or via a short sale. A short sale is when the bank agrees to accept less than what the borrower owes on their mortgage.
May was the first month since January 2010 that the number of homes starting on the foreclosure path rose on an annual basis. But the trend has been visible in the monthly numbers, with four out of the first five months of this year recording increases over the preceding month.”

Orem's Financial Dilemma

This Opinion appeared in the Daily Herald newspaper May 30, 2012.  This is not the entire piece.  Please refer to the link to see the entire article.  Herald

MAY 30, 2012 12:05 AM

"Orem may have a citizen rebellion on its hands over a plan to raise property taxes by nearly 50 percent to cover projected shortfalls in city operations as well as payments on the lethargic (read failed) UTOPIA fiber-optic network.
Officials are asking for a $3.3 million tax increase -- $2.8 million to make the year's UTOPIA payments combined with $477,000 for pay raises for city employees. They don't like looking at it that way, but it fits.
Those two items alone account for the total tax increase. What is less easy to see is the $600,000 of new revenues, which can be used for maintaining Orem's current level of services to residents. Some new police cars are needed, along with increases for gasoline, maintaining the swimming pool, fertilizing the parks, etc.
City leaders meeting with the Herald editorial board last week said they prefer to view the budget as a whole, rather than singling out certain line items for blame. So, while $3.3 million does represent the total shortfall, they'd rather stir operations, compensation and UTOPIA into a larger budget soup.
We don't blame them. But it is quite natural for taxpayers to note the total increase of $3.3 million and ask what it's paying for.
The boat anchor, or course, is UTOPIA, which was supposed to be Orem's grand entry into the high-speed digital age. Unfortunately, like the iProvo network next door, it can now be labeled a boondoggle.
UTOPIA is the gift that keeps on taking. Not only are residents of the city obligated to pay $2.8 million in the coming year but they must make higher payments each year for the next 28 years. Payments are scheduled to rise by 2 percent annually so that in the final years of the contract payments will be about $5 million per year.
This means it's very likely that Orem will be coming back for yet another bite at the tax apple not far down the road.
As tax revenues have declined in the recession, the city has eaten through its healthy reserve (call it a rainy-day fund) to maintain the lifestyle to which Orem has become accustomed -- including making UTOPIA payments. Not long ago, the reserve was flush at the legal maximum of 18 percent of revenues; today it's nearing the legal minimum of 5 percent. If it bleeds below that, the Utah Legislature will force the city to raise taxes.
How could this happen? Basically by gambling on a sputtering economy and not confessing to residents immediately when there wasn't enough money to sustain current levels of service.
The economy didn't rebound and bring in fresh dollars. But rather than acknowledging annual shortfalls forthrightly to the taxpayers -- and seeking more money when it might have been a bit less painful -- Orem officials simply tapped reserves.
Billy Joel touched a certain political truth when he sang that honesty is a lonely word. Yet, there was never going to be an easy way to explain to taxpayers that they were stuck paying for a major boat anchor called UTOPIA. It was an unwise venture from the start, undertaken by starry-eyed elected officials who saw in it a chance to be on the cutting edge.
With only about a third of Orem able to choose fiber-optics after a decade, this cutting edge wouldn't cut Jell-O. But somebody still has to pay the bill. Sorry, Orem.
Councilman Hans Andersen, a CPA, has proposed dumping the wage increase for city employees, and he's got a point. In an economy in which many workers in the private sector can't remember their last raise, it's asking a lot to take money out of their pockets to fund public sector pay increases.
Public employees, moreover, typically enjoy unusually good fringe benefits, which leads Andersen to his second recommendation: decrease the city's 401(k) retirement match. A 50 percent match would not be out of line with private businesses that offer such programs.
Finally, Andersen wants to see all this on the November ballot for a non-binding advisory vote. That wouldn't hurt. But making decisions is what city officials were elected to do. If residents disagree with the direction of the city, they need to speak up strongly and in a timely manner.
Maintaining the status quo is always the default position of government. It shouldn't be. Orem faces a financial dilemma. Whatever course it chooses will involve some pain to somebody. The city would benefit from some private-sector thinking in place of its rigid "current level of services" analysis.