Our Valuable Relationship with Canyons School District

Our Valuable Relationship with Canyons School District
Posted on 09/11/2017

By Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore

A recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the Top 10 stadiums in the state of Utah to watch a football game. Brighton High School not only made the list but it’s ranked at No. 2. It is another recognition that makes us proud of Brighton High, which we view as “our” high school as it is the only one located in Cottonwood Heights. We love to bask in the glow of the limelight of recognitions given to our students, faculty and administration – even that our football stadium, with its amazing views of the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Front, is among the Top 10 best stadiums in the state!

From 2006 to 2008, a committee of Mayors worked to form a new school district splitting from the Jordan School District. The citizens of Sandy, Midvale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper and Alta voted affirmatively to form the new Canyons School District. The new district began providing educational services on July 1, 2009.  

In the 13 years since the city incorporated this was one of the most important developments for our community. The ongoing relationship between Canyons and the communities it serves is at the heart of better use of tax dollars, cooperative use of facilities and better service of our mutual constituencies.  

Many misunderstood the motivations behind the formation of the Canyons District. The most common misunderstanding was that the east side of the Jordan District was attempting to avoid financial obligations to help with the construction of schools on the west side of the district. The truth is that there was an expectation that 20 percent of the 2003 $280 million bond would be used to pay for renovations of older schools. In the end, only 3 percent went to renovations.  

Most property owners in Cottonwood Heights continue to pay on that 2003 bond (unless you were originally in Granite District). Our tax obligation under the bond continues to decline from now until the bonds are retired in 2023. But the point is 97 percent of that bond was used for schools on the west side of Jordan District for which we are still paying without complaint.  

While we agree that paying off the Jordan bond is our shared obligation, the main motivation for the creation of Canyons District was to assure that the ongoing and future facility and educational needs of students in our community were being met. Furthermore, there was a strong desire for a better working relationship with “our” school district.  

After eight years of operation, we feel that our goals of better facilities and education for our students are being achieved and we have a fabulous relationship with the Canyons School District. Here are a few key examples of how our relationship has been beneficial for our citizens.  

No Tax Increases – In eight years there has been no statutory tax increase imposed by Canyons School District.  

New Facilities – A new bond issued by Canyons was structured in a way to overlay existing retiring debt so that no new taxes were required to build over $250 million in projects. Among those projects were a new Butler Middle School, a new Butler Elementary School, improvements at other elementary schools in the city, new tennis courts, a new football field and soccer field, and improvements at Brighton High including a new building. Keep in mind that prior to Canyons we had dilapidated schools and two closed elementary schools. When young families were looking to move into our community, the condition of the school facilities was a strong negative which reduced the appeal of this area. The new facilities have had just the opposite effect, increasing the appeal of this area along with enrollment of the schools located within the city’s boundaries. 

New Parks – We worked cooperatively to convert the closed Mountview Elementary School on Fort Union into the new Mountview Park. Our lease of that land from the district is $1 per year. We were able to work closely with the District to exchange a community eyesore for a park that has become one of the most popular in the area. It is an amenity that attracts people to Cottonwood Heights and makes our community a more desirable place to live. In addition, we were able to work jointly with the District to convert the old Cottonwood Heights Elementary into more green space for Butler Park as well as add the new tennis courts on Bengal Boulevard.  

New Theater – As the new Butler Middle was being built we contributed financially to build a larger, state-of-the-art auditorium and theater that the community could use in the summer and during the school year for community events. This joint use of the facility has been a great partnership and made better use of a taxpayer asset. Our model is now being duplicated in other cities in Canyons School District.  

Excellent Working Relationship – Superintendent Jim Briscoe, a Cottonwood Heights resident, values highly the relationship with the communities the District serves. He has made it a repeated theme of his administration to work closely with us. That relationship allows us to do many things together from supporting school career fairs, to telephone pole banners, to providing law enforcement support and sharing facilities. Last spring, then-Congressman Jason Chaffetz scheduled a town hall meeting at City Hall. Once we realized City Hall was inadequate to hold the crowds, we quickly called the District for assistance. They turned on a dime to accommodate us. Such a relationship between city and school district is symbiotic in so many ways, not the least of which is coordinating our efforts to serve a common constituency.  

We are so grateful for the teachers and administrators at Canyons School District. Schools are the heart of any community. We are proud of our five elementary schools (Ridgecrest, Oakdale, Bella Vista, Butler and Canyon View), Butler Middle School and Brighton High School (and its newspaper-noteworthy football stadium). We believe the quality of education and facilities offered to our citizens by Canyons District is a big reason why our area is such a desirable place to be.

I extend my personal thanks to those I have worked with at Canyons District. They are too numerous to name, but the two superintendents, Dave Doty and Jim Briscoe, along with board members representing the city Kim Horiuchi, Tracy Cowdell, Kevin Cromar, Nancy Tingey, and Amber Shill have all been great friends to the city. As CSD begins its ninth year in operation, I encourage us all to claim Canyons as “our” district and show the teachers and the administrators, as well as our students, how much we appreciate their contributions to our community and that we share in the pride of their numerous accomplishments.