SANDY Leaders of the east and west transition teams say the groups need time to digest the mayors' recommendation plan before making any decisions on how Jordan School District should split its assets and liabilities.
"We will take a deep breath on this," said east transition team Chairman Steve Newton.
The mayors in Jordan District presented their proposal on Friday.
The plan calls for the west side of the district to give $33 million to the east side, to be paid over a 15-year period with no interest, beginning with the budget year 2009-10. Property, such as school buildings, would stay with the individual districts.
The east side would continue to be responsible for payment of its share of the $281 million in bond funding approved by voters in 2003.
"I think it's excellent. I think it's a very fair compromise. I hope we can make it fly," said Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights. She sponsored legislation that gave the green light for Jordan District to split and also provided rules and guidelines for that action.
In November, east-side residents voted to leave Jordan District and form their own school district. Since then, the east and west sides of the district have not been able to agree on how to split assets and liabilities.
The east side contends it is suffering from declining enrollment and aging school buildings. The west side says it is worried about predicted rapid enrollment growth and the lack of school buildings to house the student influx.
The mayors are offering their proposal as a compromise to keep both sides out of arbitration, said South Jordan Mayor Kent Money.
"Do we have some serious reservations about this compromise? The answer is yes. Do we like it? The answer is no," Money said. "But we only offer it in the spirit of a compromise."
Money acknowledges that with the bond proceeds, 3 percent went to the east-side projects and 97 percent went to the west-side projects, resulting in a middle school in Draper not getting constructed. This inequity
will be remedied by the west district paying the $33 million so the east district can build that school, he said.
"Is it fair?" asked west-side transition team member Melissa Johnson, who is also a West Jordan City Council member.
Money didn't directly answer the question but said neither side likes the mayors' plan. Thus, it is a "true compromise."
Johnson also pointed out that the mayors discussed their plan during the last few months before the west transition team released important updated financial data.
Regarding the pending arbitration, Money says he worries the arbitrators won't understand all aspects of the district split issue and wouldn't take everything into consideration, including the fact the west side is predicted to grow by 13,000 students over the next five years.
"Is the arbitrator going to look at all of the facts relative to budgets and the ongoing operation and maintenance of the school district and the ongoing capital expenditures required to build all of these schools?" Money said.
By law, the transition teams must each choose an arbitrator by Sept. 1. There is still leeway, however, for the two teams to come up with a plan and use it even after arbitrators have been selected.
David Jordan, legal counsel for the west transition team, warned of the risks posed when putting power in the hands of an arbitrator. "There is wisdom in trying to compromise and control your own destiny," he said.Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore said, "In addition to posing possible complexities in starting a new district, arbitration will further the divisiveness and continue the negativity which we think has been detrimental to both sides."
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