WEST JORDAN — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously sent a message to state lawmakers, asking for another way to pay for new schools.

The council approved a resolution that calls on the Legislature to change state law to allow impact fees to go toward schools. Impact fees are paid by developers and are used for infrastructure that their new developments will require.

Councilwoman Kathy Hilton said that while this resolution doesn't specifically respond to a push by some east-side cities to look into forming their own school districts and breaking away from larger districts, if they were to do so, cities like West Jordan would be left behind with a heavier burden.

In that case, she said, West Jordan may need to consider forming its own district as well.

In Utah, that includes roads and other public facilities but does not include schools, as it does in some other states.

Hilton, who sponsored the resolution, said cities and school districts need to band together to get the change approved.

"It's going to be an uphill battle," she said.

Councilman Rob Bennett said cities are especially likely to face opposition from developers and real-estate agents who don't want to see the increased costs attached to new homes. But he said using impact fees for schools would be the fairest way to cover increasing demand on the public school system.

"It's very important. New growth needs to pay its own way," Bennett said, adding that the bulk of school funding would still come from property taxes, so existing residents would still pay their share.

The resolution was approved 7-0.

In other business Tuesday:

• The council approved, 7-0, a tentative plan for the city's much-anticipated dog park, to be built on New Bingham Highway at about 6000 West. The dog park has been pushed by a group of residents eager to have somewhere to bring their dogs besides the overused Millrace Park in Taylorsville.

That park has become so popular that Taylorsville has begun to charge a fee for nonresident use.

And while the plan for West Jordan's 4-acre park is just a preliminary plan to allow the city to begin taking bids, a handful of dog-park proponents say the plans aren't inclusive enough.

Among their concerns: parking. The plan doesn't envision adding any new parking stalls to the park. Instead, dog-park users would share about 250 parking stalls with the adjacent Ron Wood baseball park and 15 stalls with the city's animal shelter.

Residents also told the council they want to see more benches and more shelter from the weather at the estimated $217,000 park.

City Manager Gary Luebbers said the park's ultimate look and amenities won't be determined until after bids come in. Most of the extras the residents seek are listed as possible additions to the park, and bids will present a base price and an item-by-item cost for the extras. The council will then decide just how much it wants to spend.

The money for the park comes from a $400,000 recreation grant from Salt Lake County.

• The council stopped discussion on Luebbers' salary when it became clear there was not unanimous agreement on his yearly 10-percent bonus. That bonus makes the city manager's salary the highest in the state.

The council created it six years ago as a way of increasing the city manager's salary without requiring additional retirement benefits, and it went before the council Tuesday because it is up for renewal. The bonus is classified as an incentive for the city manager to continue working for the city.

But some residents and members of the council believe the high salary is incentive enough. While no council member said he or she wanted to do away with the bonus, Councilwoman Melissa Johnson recommended making the bonus contingent on council-set goals.

Those goals would be spelled out by the council each January and evaluated the following December. If the council found the city manager met those goals, he would receive the bonus.

But City Attorney Roger Cutler said the council should be careful legislating such changes to an employee's contract without negotiating with that employee. Luebbers agreed he would not want to sign such a contract as Johnson spelled it out, especially since it made the bonus contingent on unspecified job requirements.

Instead, he wants to talk with council members in closed meetings, as is typical for personnel negotiations, before the contract is approved by the council in an open meeting.


E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com