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Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Group pushes spending to bolster schools

Published: Sunday, March 7 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Kodi Campeau, right, buys a cookie from Over the Top Gourmet Cookies owner Rachel Smith in South Jordan Saturday. Shop West wants west-side residents to spend locally.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

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SOUTH JORDAN — "Shop Here … Learn Here" is their motto, and if a new community group has any sway, west-siders will keep their spending dollars in their area of the valley.

After watching the Jordan School District consider firing teachers and increasing property taxes due to budget woes, a new community group called Shop West wants residents to bolster their local economy, strengthening the school district.

"Our hope is to change people's habits. Now people will think before they get in their car, instead of going into autopilot and heading east," said Chris Merrill, the group's spokesman.

Merrill is one of the founders of Shop West, which includes business leaders, community activists, parents and teachers.

Though retail spending will not trickle down to the school district immediately, they see it as a long-term funding plan. Shop at the Costco in West Valley instead of the Sandy store, for example, and the tax base that serves local education funding will grow larger.

It's a complicated issue, and already Shop West has faced criticism. Dissenters argue the plan doesn't make sense, since school districts don't get sales-tax dollars. They say Shop West is just a boycott of east-side businesses.

"That's not our intent. It's not an east-west thing. It's to support where we're at, our own people, support the west side," Merrill said.

Paul Pugmire, president of the South Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said 80 percent of every dollar spent at a local business stays in that community.

"We don't have a vote on the Legislature, but we can keep our money home," Pugmire said. "Our spending matters — let's keep it at home."

As a west-side business owner and parent of four children in the Jordan School District, Rachel Smith likes Shop West's mission because "it helps out everybody."

"I would love to have people support our business, shop locally, and keep the money in the west end of the valley," said Smith, owner of Over the Top cookies in South Jordan. "It makes me excited and makes me feel like we're trying to do something as a community."

To learn more about Shop West, visit shopwest.org.

e-mail: astowell@desnews.com

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