A newsletter that arrived in more than 33,000 homes in the Alpine School District Wednesday contains a message educators think is urgent, but leaders of Utah's tax protest movement say the mailing was illegal.
The message, written in large part by Alpine Superintendent Steve Baugh, is contained on two pages of a 47-page Community and Adult Education Fall Class Schedule that was mailed to every residence within the district's boundaries.Baugh said it is his responsibility to warn voters that the tax initiatives on November's ballot will seriously harm education if they are approved. But some local residents and proponents of the initiatives say it is wrong and probably illegal for the district to place its view of a political issue in a document that was produced partially with taxpayer money.
"The minute they use public money to present only one side of a ballot issue, they've violated the law," said Mills Crenshaw, spokesman for the Tax Limitation Coalition. "It's no different than using public money to promote a candidate. If (tax protesters) were doing this, they would immediately ask for our summary arrest. They'd take us away in chains."
Crenshaw said the district should have at least attempted to present the other side of the issue in the newsletter, but Baugh said he doesn't consider the message "anti-initiatives."
"My purpose was to convey information that shows the impact the initiatives will have on the district," he said. "I believe that I'm on firm legal ground not to have provided the opposition's point of view. I feel the responsibility to do what is in the best interest of education. If I didn't do that, I'm not sure I'd be fulfilling my responsibility."
Baugh said he crafted his statement carefully so voters would not feel he was trying to tell them how to vote, but Orem resident George King said he was upset when he received the newsletter.
"This kind of thing just polarizes me. It convinces me more than ever to vote for the tax cut because I just feel more like an outsider who can't fight city hall," he said.