Limited and Open Government

To Bond or Not to Bond, That Was The Question

This November, Utah voters didn’t just choose their city officials; they also had their say on various ballot propositions. You might be curious: what do propositions entail, how did they fare statewide, and what repercussions do they hold for voters? (Hint: In many instances, they signify higher taxes.)

What are ballot propositions?

Generally speaking, ballot propositions feature registered voters acting as one of two roles:

  1. Lawmaker: Voting directly to add or repeal laws in their state, county, or city/town. These are known as the initiative (adding new laws) or referendum (repealing existing laws) — both of which are triggered by a citizen-led signature gathering process or an act of the local government.
  2. CFO: Voting directly on additional proposed spending — usually in the form of a sales tax increase or bond approval — for their city, county, or school board.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the bond approvals that were on Utah ballots.

Bond Approvals

Bond approvals seem complicated to those unfamiliar, but are phrased as simple questions put before voters that ask, “Should the city, county, or local school board take out a loan to pay for a large project?” If approved, they result in property taxes going up until the bond for the new school or infrastructure project is paid off.

The act of bonding is not necessarily an indication of fiscal irresponsibility, as the state imposes some limitations on how much funds can be held in reserves by school boards and city/county treasuries. In fact, the bond approval process we have in Utah can provide a check on government spending, as local governments have to make their case to voters in order to justify such expenditures.

Of the bonds on ballots across the state, five passed and six failed.


  • Cache School District’s $139 million bond passed 58.32 percent to 41.68 percent. 
  • Sandy’s $21 million bond to fund a new fire station passed 66.48 percent to 33.52 percent.
  • Midvale’s $11.2 million bond to build a recreation center and bike and walk paths passed 61 percent to 39 percent.
  • Brian Head’s $3.5 million “core beautification” bond passed by just two votes and with only 38 voters participating in the election.
  • St. George’s $29 million bond for trails, parks, and recreation passed 63.17 percent to 36.83 percent.


  • In a surprising move, Park City voters rejected a proposal to build a new recreation center 55.26 percent to 44.74 percent. Apparently, this was the first time in twenty years Park City voters have rejected a municipal bond.
  • Weber County’s proposal to bond and build a new justice center failed 57.60 percent to 42.40 percent.
  • Millard School District’s $47.5 million bond failed 53.51 percent to 46.49 percent.
  • Piute County School District’s $2.8 million bond failed 62.91 percent to 37.09 percent.
  • Two bonds in Iron County failed. The school district’s $75.4 million bond failed 50.10 percent to 49.90 percent, and an $89.9 million bond to build a new jail failed 63.79 percent to 36.21 percent.

Aside from an unwillingness to fund new jails, and school district bonds failing 3-1, it’s hard to form any broad takeaways or get a sense of voter sentiment. Most obviously, however, is the fact that if you care about taxes and the proper role of government, involvement in these elections is crucial.