Jordan School District could be the trump card in a plan to pay for a major-league soccer stadium in Sandy.
The $15 million that Sandy is expected to give to Real Salt Lake may include a hefty chunk of the district's share of property-tax dollars. The city is asking Jordan to give those dollars to the team.
District, city and team officials plan to meet in October to discuss those figures, but it's up to Jordan whether or not they want to opt in.
Earlier this month, the Salt Lake County Council approved a funding plan to give Real Salt Lake $55 million in public subsidies for the $180 million stadium and an adjoining hotel and broadcast studio. Part of those public dollars includes $15 million in Redevelopment Agency funds from Sandy money the south-valley suburb may not be able to fully produce without help from the district.
Randy Sant, Sandy's economic development director, approached the Jordan Board of Education this week, saying Sandy was hammering out stadium financing details and would be back in touch in 30 to 45 days, said Burke Jolley, Jordan District deputy superintendent who oversees business services.
"There's a few dollars out there the district will be asked to provide," Jolley said, "and nobody's really asked us or informed us or shared with us what the plan was."
Sant said the $15 million in Redevelopment Agency funds would work only if each taxing entity gave a green light, two school-board members said Wednesday. Sandy city officials did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
Redevelopment Agency (RDA) dollars are tools that cities use to spur economic development. Various taxing entities, like school districts, forgo their share of property-tax dollars for a length of time so that money can be diverted into a redevelopment project.
The Jordan Board of Education has been clear in its aversion to giving up its money for RDA projects in recent years.
Sandy, however, plans to use a new track of recent RDA legislation to give the team the millions promised. That track, community-development area (CDA) money, only uses the city and county's cut of property taxes.
But taxing entities like Jordan School District can say whether they want to participate.
If that's the case, Jordan District could hold the upper hand on whether the stadium is built, should a proposed financing plan include them. Jolley said considering the district's tax base, it could be asked to fund 55 percent to 60 percent of the $15 million, or up to $9 million. There is no formal proposal yet before the school board.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said he has seen a funding spreadsheet that includes money from a five-year bond through Jordan School District. But that is not an official proposal.
Details of that proposal should be made public in October, when the district, city and Real will meet, said Tom Love, a Real spokesperson. Real plans to present stadium-funding material to Jordan at that meeting.
In September, the team will begin hosting events and open houses to educate the public on the funding proposal.
Jordan School District has received a lot of calls on the matter, most expressing that the school district not give up its money to the soccer stadium.
"There would have to be some very compelling reasons to support the diversion of those funds," Jolley said. "I think that will be up to Real and Sandy City and others to provide that convincing evidence to our board."
Board member Lynette Phillips said district bosses soon are to be told how the investment will benefit students.
"I can't speak for the whole board, but personally, we're having a very hard time with the increased costs of construction and just keeping up with the schools we're supposed to be building," said Phillips, who lives in Midvale. "I'd be very hesitant to spend our money on anything not directly benefiting our students in schools all day long."
Board member Ellen Wallace, who lives in Sandy, agrees.
"I'd hate to see us put our kids at a disadvantage because of a soccer stadium," she said. But, she added, "I will have to keep an open mind until I hear their proposition."
The upcoming request comes at a politically charged time and election year for school boards.
Sandy is examining whether to ditch Jordan School District and form its own, smaller school district with neighboring cities Draper and Cottonwood Heights. Sandy accounts for about a quarter of Jordan District's expected property-tax revenues.Jolley said that could be "one of many variables" for the board to look at in considering the soccer-stadium proposal.
Contributing: Leigh Dethman