AMERICAN FORK Alpine School District officials are still smarting from statements that were reportedly made by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, during a recent Saratoga Springs town meeting.
Alpine officials say that, among other remarks, Madsen said 25 percent of all tax money given to the district is funneled into school district administration. "That simply is not true," said Rob Smith, Alpine District business administrator.
Alpine District spends 6.52 percent on school administration; 0.43 percent on general district administration; 3.09 on support staff such as counselors and secretaries; and 5.12 percent on instructional staff such as librarians.
A total of 70.23 percent of the district's budget goes to student instruction, Smith said, citing district data, as well as matching numbers from the Utah Taxpayers Association
Madsen, an attorney, denies making the "25 percent" statement, saying local media who attended the town meeting misinterpreted his remarks.
Further, Madsen says he is frustrated that Alpine District officials "never came to me and said there was a problem. They didn't ask if I had been misquoted."
Alpine District officials, however, said they left messages on his home and cell phone. Smith said he also went to Madsen's place of employment to meet with him but he wasn't there.
The Saratoga Springs town meeting wasn't tape-recorded. Neither were minutes taken of the meeting. It was simply an opportunity for residents to come and ask questions of Madsen, said Saratoga Springs city officials.
Madsen says the statement could have been misconstrued during the meeting when he was talking about statistics he heard at a conference he had attended.
Madsen said it was the American Legislative Exchange Council in December 2006. He was told that in 47 states in the country, the administrative costs for public education exceed 35 percent of their budget. He was told Utah had just crept into the "above 35 percent" category, upping the total states to 48.
"I wasn't commenting on Alpine School District," Madsen said.
Alpine officials set up a meeting at the Legislature to discuss the issue and came armed with financial data regarding the district's budget, as well as other financial issues in the district, such as teacher salaries and class sizes.
The district schedules regular meetings, generally monthly, with the local legislators.
Alpine Superintendent Vernon Henshaw, who attended the meeting, said, "Our point was to give an accounting to our legislators so they had accurate information and to educate them as to what is going on."
Madsen was a no-show.
Smith said, "It's unfortunate. We were trying to reach out and share information that may correct a perception."
Smith added, "They're very busy, and during the session is an extremely difficult time, so we understand."
Madsen later told the Deseret Morning News he doesn't remember being invited. "I didn't hear about it," Madsen said. "Maybe I missed the e-mail."
Regardless, Madsen said he had a schedule conflict during the time and day of the meeting due to his employment. "If I had no conflict I would have gone," he said. "It's tough during the Legislature. I can't be everywhere at once."
Seven legislators, and Republican Party chairman Stan Lockhart, showed up and listened.
"It was a good discussion," said Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork. He added the group gets together regularly.
"We talk about legislative issues, and if we have disagreements, we talk about how we see the world differently," Dougall said.
Three Alpine School Board members also attended the meeting, including board president Debbie Taylor.
"As policy-makers we feel it's important to have accurate information when we make policy," Taylor said. "We feel legislators would like the same thing."
Henshaw said he thought the meeting went great.
"We just wanted to make sure we shared the accountability of the money with our legislators," he said. "They were very appreciative of the information. It was a very positive meeting."
Alpine District also spends 8.55 percent of its budget on operation and maintenance of facilities, 3.75 percent on transportation; and 0.60 percent for the district business office, including accounting. The total general fund budget for 2006-07 was $276,250,276, according to Smith.Percentages have generally remained the same in the district budget during the past decade. However, actual dollars have increased on school administration and on operation and maintenance of facilities as the district has opened new schools to accommodate growth, Smith said.