While the transition team representing the seceding east side of Jordan School District is preparing for arbitration, team members for the remaining half of the district say they still want to work things out.

Leaders of the Jordan-west team said Thursday that although they rejected a proposal crafted to divide the district's assets and liabilities, that doesn't mean they are ready to close the book on the whole deal.

"Our intent is to get closure and avoid arbitration, but we still need to prepare, given the fact they have already retained an attorney to assist in arbitration," said Ralph Haws, chairman of the transition team. "It was not our idea to go through what is happening but, given that, we need to move forward."

Last month a negotiating team, which included two members from each side, presented recommendations to both teams on how to fairly divide district assets. East-side residents voted in November to split from Jordan and establish their own district.

The biggest hurdle standing in the way of an agreement is what to do with a 2003 $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.

Melissa Johnson, a Jordan-west transition team member and West Jordan City Council member, said that's a bitter pill to swallow for those living in the remaining district since they will already face a 30 percent tax increase due to the split.

Another provision in the proposal the team didn't like was the actual date the district's assets and liabilities were to be allocated — something Haws is now calling a non-issue because it could be worked out pretty easily.

But Monday the Jordan-east team interpreted Jordan-west's rejection as an "abandonment of the negotiation process." So they retained a lawyer, even though they also want to avoid arbitration.

"The longer we go on this, the more animosity that appears in this, the greater disservice we do to our students, our trained staff, our families ... and economic development," Haws said.

He said that the messier the process gets, the more difficult will be to recruit teachers and attract families to the district. Though the Jordan-west team said arbitration is a very last resort, it is in the process of hiring an attorney.

Meanwhile both teams are preparing letters to send to each other outlining their stance.

The Jordan-east team's letter will lay out their interpretation of the rejection, invite the west-side group to clarify the interpretation if necessary, and inform them that they are preparing for arbitration.

The letter from the Jordan-west team will more fully detail the reasons for the rejection and perhaps alternate suggestions.

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