Transition team members from the new Jordan-east school district said they are disappointed by last week's rejection of a proposal that would have divvied up the districts' assets and liabilities. They are now beating arbitration drums.
At Monday night's meeting, the team retained a lawyer to help prepare the group for arbitration proceedings but still hoped for the possibility of first finding a workable plan.
"(The rejection) was a repudiation of the work of the negotiation teams and a clear abandonment of the negotiation process," said Steven Newton, chairman of the east team and former Sandy mayor.
"We thought we had come to a reasonable compromise that balanced the equation for both parties as well as that could happen. We suspected there would be some ongoing discussion but were surprised with an out-and-out rejection," said team member Mike Shelton, who was part of the negotiating team that crafted the proposal. "My feeling is that they locked it down to leave no choice, they have left no way out other than to go to arbitration."
But members of the Jordan-west transition team said that they don't want arbitration, and the rejected proposal was not supposed to be seen as a deal-breaker.
Last month, a negotiating team composed of members from both sides presented recommendations to both teams on how to fairly divide Jordan School District assets. East-side residents voted in November to split from Jordan and establish their own district.
But the Jordan District Transition Team, which represents the remaining west-side district, opposed the proposal based on what they said would be a negative impact on their taxpayers and students.
In 2003, district voters approved a $196 million bond. The proposal allocated 57 percent of the bond proceeds to the new east-side school district, requiring the west-side taxpayers to reimburse the new school district $112 million. Leaders said that would most likely mean a tax increase for residents on the fast-growing west side.
The Jordan team also took issue with the actual date the district's assets and liabilities were to be allocated. The proposal requires that separate financial records for the remaining district and the new district begin July 1, 2008.
However, some of the assets would need to be tracked as of Jan. 1, 2008. Leaders say this contradicts the law which authorized the vote on the split, which designates June 30, 2009, as the date for this allocation to occur.
Though the bulk of the proposal was agreeable, Newton indicated that they could not budge on those two issues to the degree that would sway the Jordan-west transition team. The Jordan-east team is working on a letter of response.
Newton said the message will lay out the team's interpretation of the rejection, invite the west-side group to clarify the interpretation if necessary, and inform them that they are preparing for arbitration.He said his team is still open to discussion, but taking bond proceeds off the table is against statute. He said he doubts, based on everything he has seen and heard, that the east team will want to further negotiate.