The Jordan School Board unanimously voted Tuesday night to oppose the tax initiative issues on the November general election ballot, and then issued proposed areas in which district budgets might be adjusted to deal with reductions should the measures pass.
Superintendent Raymond Whittenburg emphasized that district attempts to assess the effect of tax cuts are based on conjecture. "There are no absolutes," he said. Lacking specific information on how the tax rollbacks and limitations would affect them, the districts have nevertheless been asked to target budget areas where reductions can occur, he said.Jordan would accomplish an estimated $18.6 million budget cut in five ways, Whittenburg said:
- Charging fees for services now supported by taxes, such as yearbook staff ($10) or basketball ($129 for boys); adult education ($216 for 72 hours of instruction); community education ($9 to $18 per class); bus transportation ($21 per month if buses are full, more if they are not); public use of district swimming pools ($6.50 per person).
- Reducing services, including Advanced Placement ($146,847); vocational education ($1.1 million); counseling ($328,011 at secondary level, $353,242 at elementary level); bilingual education ($149,917); gift-ed/talented programs ($137,536).
- Eliminating programs such as kindergarten ($2.4 million); special transportation on hazardous routes ($141,100); youth in custody education ($211,687); high risk programs ($43,000); hearing evaluation ($64,396); Family Education Center ($18,879).
- Deferring building improvement projects, additions, remodeling and repairs except for those related to safety and postponing equipment purchases, including computers for schools and school offices.
- Reducing administration and support staff costs by approximately $2.3 million, shifting the responsibility to principals.
The proposals would trim 392 positions, Whittenburg said, unless kindergarten were eliminated, in which case the total would rise to 404.
"These numbers could change significantly," Whittenburg said. Many of the questions related to tax reductions would be decided by the Legislature and State Office of Education.
Board President Maurine Jensen said the proposed budget trims were prepared and presented "with as much pleasure as a prepaid burial plan."
In an emotion-charged patron comment period, the board received both bouquets and brickbats.
Kim Casperson, representing a group of parents, blasted the board for failing to get enough money to the classroom.
"We feel we are taxed without representation," she said. "You don't seem to care what happens to our children. We want more accountability."
Board members asked for an opportunity to meet with Casperson's group to clarify some of its allegations regarding how the district allocates money.
Several teachers appealed for permission to fight the tax initiatives more openly. They said they would have liked to use Back to School visits to impress parents with the negative effects the tax cuts could have on their children.
Whittenburg said the district preferred that the Back to School experience be a positive one for parents but encouraged teachers to speak out against the initiatives.
He noted that the district already has experienced budget reductions in the past three years because state support hasn't kept pace with actual growth.
"If the initiatives pass, we will still have school in Jordan District," he said. "We will do the best we can with what we have."