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2007 study could be used in decision to split Jordan School District

Published: Thursday, July 10 2014 9:22 p.m. MDT

West Jordan Elementary School.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News Archives

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WEST JORDAN — City leaders are confident that a feasibility study conducted in 2007 gives West Jordan the option to place a school district split option before voters in November.

The West Jordan City Council on Wednesday declined to fund a new study — one of the requirements under state law for a city to initiate a school district split — but council members suggested the city could maintain its option for a voter-approved split based on a study conducted in the lead-up to the creation of the Canyons School District.

West Jordan public information officer Kim Wells said the statute was reviewed by city staff, who determined the old study satisfies the state's requirements.

"The legal department determined that they can use that 2007 study to get (a split) on the ballot," she said.

West Jordan's discussions of a split come in reaction to statements made by members of the neighboring South Jordan City Council, which commissioned a feasibility study earlier this year to examine the possibility of creating a new school district.

The Jordan Board of Education has been criticized for its financial and facilities management by South Jordan leaders, who asked the school board for a report on all of its properties, a list of future construction projects and a plan for revenue losses resulting from the end of county equalization funds.

Wells said West Jordan does not want to see further splintering of the school district, but the loss of South Jordan could necessitate action by other school district municipalities.

"The goal is to unify the district and move forward, so hopefully it’s not going to come to that, but the 2007 study does leave that option on the table," she said.

Both cities have until Aug. 5 to decide whether to place the question of a district split before voters.

Mark Thomas, director of elections for the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office, confirmed that state statute requires that a feasibility study be conducted prior to a public vote. But the statute does not specify a time frame for how long a study remains valid for consideration.

"It doesn’t really give an indication, it just says conduct a feasibility study without any caveats," he said.

Thomas said until the issue of a school district split is placed on the ballot, the question is a city matter and subject to the interpretation and jurisdiction of city leaders. It would be up to the City Council, then, to decide whether a feasibility study provided adequate information to move forward to voter approval.

He also added that the statute explicitly states that challenges to the accuracy of a feasibility study would not nullify the outcome of a public vote.

"Just because there’s a technical error doesn’t mean you throw out the whole election," he said.

Wells reiterated that the City Council does not currently have an appetite to separate from the Jordan School District, but was trying to maintain its options as negotiations with South Jordan continue.

She also said that if city leaders chose to place the issue on the ballot based on the 2007 study, the option would remain to commission a study to update the city's information between the Aug. 5 ballot deadline and when voter information packets are distributed this fall.

"This gives them some time to see what happens over the next couple weeks," she said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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