Jordan School Board adopts resolution opposed to district split

Published: Tuesday, June 10 2014 8:05 p.m. MDT

Members of the Jordan School Board have adopted a written resolution formally opposing efforts to create a South Jordan school district.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Citing potential damage to educational quality and student achievement, the Jordan Board of Education on Tuesday adopted a resolution opposed to the creation of a South Jordan school district.

School board members voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which suggests the school district split currently under consideration by South Jordan city officials would negatively impact students, school employees and taxpayers.

"Therefore, let it be resolved that the Jordan School District Board of Education unanimously opposes the city of South Jordan proposal to create its own school district and wishes to express our continued desire to give all students within the current boundaries of Jordan School District an exceptional education worthy of a world-class community," the resolution states.

Following the school board vote, board members expressed their intention to present the resolution in person at the city council meetings of the various municipalities within the Jordan School District. The resolution will also be posted on the district's website.

The South Jordan City Council recently launched a feasibility study to explore the possibility of creating a new school district. City Councilman Chuck Newton said the study is expected to be completed by the end of July, at which point the council will decide whether to place the issue of a new district before voters in November.

Newton said he expects the study to find that splitting the school district would be favorable to residents of South Jordan. He also said that there may be costs involved with a split, but they would ultimately be less than what taxpayers could expect to pay by remaining in Jordan School District.

"The question isn’t going to be will your taxes be raised. It will be where will they be raised the least amount," Newton said. "Because of the financial success of South Jordan, they would be raised less in a South Jordan school district."

Last month, the Jordan School District posted a pair of articles on its website detailing the costs that both Jordan and Canyons School District residents incurred when the two districts split in 2008 and what educational opportunities students in South Jordan could miss out on during the initial creation of a new district.

Taxes were increased by 20 percent in Jordan and 16.75 percent in Canyons following the 2008 split, according to Jordan School District, and the administrative cost per student increased from $540 before the split to $795 in Canyons and $575 in Jordan.

Jordan School District also faced a one-time cost of $60 million following the split as school officials worked to manage the adjustment to a new school district.

Canyons School District is comprised of several Salt Lake County municipalities and has the fifth-largest student enrollment in Utah, according to Utah State Office of Education data.

The creation of a South Jordan school district would involve fewer schools and students, but Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said a split would still require costs to manage the transition.

"I think it’s fair to say that it would be smaller, but it still would be tens of millions of dollars," she said.

Riesgraf said a school district split involves more than just divvying up schools and boundaries. Educational programs have to be built up over a period of several years, and support services such as transportation and non-classroom faculty and administrative staff have to be established or increased.

"Naturally, administration costs go up when you do something like that because you’re replicating all of those as well," she said. "Even though it will be a small district, they’d still need a superintendent of schools. They’d still need a deputy superintendent."

But Newton said the statements put out by Jordan School District officials are misleading. He said that if voters choose to move forward with a split, state law allows for a two-year period for issues such as diminished programs and administrative services to be explored.

"Do we have a favorable tax base? Yes, we do, bluntly," Newton said. "And so it’s not an issue providing for those classes."

He also said Jordan School District followed the Canyons split with a "wild" and "irresponsible" spending spree that unnecessarily increased the cost of transitioning to two separate school districts.

"The way that they go through money, you’d think that they have a money tree in the backyard that they shake when they need more," Newton said. "The problem is they do, and it’s the taxpayer."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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