The 1989 Legislature will be asked to change an election law governing ballots for school consolidation so Weber and Ogden districts can hold such an election.
Superintendents from Weber and Ogden met with the Legislative Education Interim Committee Wednesday to discuss a study that examines whether consolidation of the districts would result in improved education or reduced costs.The study, conducted by Far West Labs, has been printed but had not arrived in time for Wednesday's discussion. The superintendents, James L. West of Ogden District and James B. Taggart of Weber District, told the legislative committee they believe the study data support their conclusion that consolidation would be a confusing process that would not result in any significant savings.
West said the districts want to bring the matter before their voters, but the present law would require that either putting the matter on the Nov. 8 ballot this year or waiting two years until the next general election.
Although there still is time to get it on the November ballot, there would not be sufficient time to present the study data to the electorate, he said. He and Taggart requested that the law be amended to allow them to put the issue before voters in the 1989 municipal election. Committee members voted to support an amendment during the 1989 session.
Sen. Lorin Pace, R-Salt Lake, suggested that a ballot on consolidation would almost certainly draw little public support.
"It's an emotional issue," he said. The Legislature has mandated study of school consolidation to determine if cost savings could be effected.
Wednesday, reports also were received from Cache, Utah County, Uintah Basin and Iron County.
Without exception, school representatives said consolidation would not create savings and would disrupt well-established school districts.
In Cache County, consolidation of the Cache and Logan districts could result in a net loss, according to spokesmen for Wasatch Institute for Research and Evaluation, which conducted an extensive study on the issue.
Teachers in the two districts have different salary schedules and the two districts have different voted leeway amounts. If the salaries were equalized at the higher schedule, as would be most likely, and if the county as a whole would not support the higher voted leeway, a countywide district could actually find itself with less income and more expense, the report said.
It presented a number of options, most of them aimed at increasing cooperation between Logan and Cache. The two districts already are cooperating on many programs, district representatives said.
Public support for maintaining the status quo is strong, said Dr. Adrian von Mondfrans, Brigham Young University, who participated in the study. Seventy-two percent of county residents surveyed would retain the present two districts rather than consolidating.
Representatives of Nebo, Provo and Alpine districts also argued that administration in their districts is very lean and savings from consolidating into a super district would be small as assistant superintendents would have to be hired to replace superintendents in the districts. The county districts are working together on many programs and services and extended them as well to rural districts that abut Utah County, they said.
Rep. Beverly Ann Evans, R-Tooele, said the legislative edict to study consolidation has been useful in creating more awareness among the districts of opportunities for saving money by cooperating and eliminating overlapping programs and services, even if no consolidation actually occurs.