SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would allow a financially distressed school district flexibility with funds was meant for Grand School District but could help Jordan School District as well.

Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, proposed HB354 when Grand District began to unravel its monetary woes last fall.

Left with $2 million in debt due to accounting errors, Grand District has been planning on cutting employees, raising class sizes, axing activities and selling off land. "That bill was made for us," said Grand District spokeswoman Becky McCormick.

While Grand was the impetus for the bill, the legislation can benefit any financially beleaguered district in Utah. "We're not stating a specific district in the bill," said Watkins, who is a retired educator.

The bill would allow school districts, for three years, to take money from its capital outlay fund and use it for the maintenance and operations fund. That means money slated for school buildings can instead go for items such as teacher salaries and classroom supplies.

Facing a $30 million deficit, Jordan District Superintendent Barry Newbold said he has high hopes for HB354.

"Yes this bill would help Jordan School District," Newbold said. "We are supportive of this measure and would love to have this level of flexibility, as would many other districts throughout the state."

The legislation would require the State Board of Education to create criteria on how a district would be considered financially distressed.

The bill could be presented to the House Education Committee this week.

Go to to view the bill.