Matt Gade, Deseret News
State senators work in the Senate at the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would make it harder for city officials to initiate a school district split failed Tuesday in a 11-18 vote of the Utah Senate.

HB84, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, would have blocked a city-led school district split if the resulting difference in tax revenues and costs between the two districts is greater than 5 percent.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, the bill's Senate sponsor, said HB84 would stop a city from "cherry-picking" affluent areas and creating a school district with high revenues and a low number of students.

But Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, argued that unlike the annexation of unincorporated areas, a city is bound by its existing boundaries and unable to select affluent areas within itself for a new school district. He said the effect of the bill would be to stop new school districts from ever being created in the state.

"These cities already exist," Stephenson said. "You can’t create boundaries of new cities."

Harper said there are three methods of creating a new school district — including action by the existing school board and a citizen initiative — and the bill would only affect one of them.

Other lawmakers argued that the bill would eliminate a recourse of cities who feel they are not being properly represented by local school boards.

— Benjamin Wood