Opposition to Jordan school bond fizzles at meeting

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013 10:25 p.m. MDT

Custodian Tim Griffith works in the custodial workshop at West Jordan Elementary School, accessible only by walking through a classroom or from outside, in West Jordan on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — Online hype indicated a group opposing a proposed $495 million bond for the Jordan School District was going to air their grievances to the school board, but they were absent at Tuesday's board meeting.

Four of the five people who signed up to approach the board offered support for the bond and their willingness to sacrifice in order to fund better classroom conditions in the rapidly growing district.

At least one person in the small audience asked if she could address the board about the bond despite not signing up. She was encouraged to share her opinion by phone or email.

The lone voice of opposition, Alexandra Eframo, said she worries about the high amount the district is asking from taxpayers and questions whether that money would directly benefit each student. Instead, she suggested the board support legislation being drafted by state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, which would eliminate tax exemptions benefitting large families.

"We have to all share," Eframo said. "If God blessed people that want 10 children, or nine or eight, that's fine, but you have to be able to support it."

Elisha Johnson, a Daybreak resident, said she has been witness to heated debate about the bond on social media.

"I've been so frustrated with my community. (Online community boards) are lit up constantly over issues such as the bond," Johnson said, expressing apprehension that without the bond, bus routes and boundaries could change or elementary schools could switch to year-round schedules. "I'm going to vote completely for the bond and I support your decision."

Some of that debate is happening in a Facebook group called "Vote No for Jordan District Bond."

In contrast to vocal opposition to the bond, a survey conducted in June by Dan Jones & Associates revealed substantial support for the cost among those who participated.

Of the 7,982 responses, 80 percent said they were in favor of the bond. The survey had a nearly 11 percent response rate and also addressed issues such as potential boundary changes and opinions about the school district's quality of education.

The Jordan School Board trimmed the bond down from $520 million and gave unanimous approval in August to the bond it hopes is a solution to the district's continued growth and aging facilities. If passed by voters on Election Day, the average Jordan School District homeowner will face $240 in additional annual property taxes over a five-year period.

The school district anticipates more than 12,000 students could be added to the area's schools in the next five years as communities continue to grow, requiring eight additional elementary schools, two middle schools and one new high school.

Katherine Graham, the mother of a Bingham High student, told the board at Tuesday's meeting she has been stunned by her son's crowded classroom and has seen the impact reflected in his grades.

"I've done the research. I'm financially savvy, and I know what bonding means," Graham said. "This is a solid option, and I stand behind it 110 percent, because I understand and I have watched the decline of funding here."

The Utah Taxpayers Association issued a statement Tuesday opposing the bond, while simultaneously endorsing a $185 million bond proposed by the Washington County School District.

The association alleged Jordan School District has failed to commit to low-cost construction methods. On its website, Jordan School District asserts its construction costs are below the national average.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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