South Jordan OKs deal with school district, cools to the idea of a split
By Danielle Manley and Lisa Schencker
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 30 2014 09:55PM
The South Jordan City Council unanimously approved an interlocal agreement Wednesday, but left the question of whether to put splitting from the Jordan School District on the ballot until its next meeting on Aug. 5.
The decision came primarily because the Jordan school board approved South Jordan’s draft of the interlocal agreement Monday night and a new feasibility study indicated negative impacts for the city and students.
Though about half of the public comment encouraged a split, all of the council members expressed opinions against creating a new school district.
"We’re moving forward on faith that they’ll deliver it and that it’ll be a quality product," councilman Chuck Newton said about the Jordan School District.
Newton said he’s always been in favor of at least placing the question of splitting on the ballot, because all he wants from the district is change.
"What I was always interested in really was leaving it up to the voters and letting them make the choice because they’re the ones that are going to get hit ... with the higher taxes for the bonds," he said. "But we’re willing to give Jordan School District another year to kick the can down the road."
Whether the city stays in the district or forms its own, residents likely will have to pay for new schools.
The agreement requires more communication between the school board and the cities of South Jordan, West Jordan, Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton. It also requests a detailed plan from the school district of when and where future schools will be built. It can be reviewed annually and terminated if necessary.
The West Jordan City Council passed the agreement and the mayors of Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton have indicated they will encourage their councils to approve the agreement.
Creating a new school district would likely cost taxpayers 5 percent to 14 percent more in taxes than staying in the Jordan district, depending on a number of scenarios, according to the feasibility study conducted by Lewis Young Robertson and Burningham, Inc.
For example, if the city stays with the district, a South Jordan resident with a $300,000 home would likely see his taxes jump from $1,093 to $1,454 because of bonding for new schools. But forming a new district would also likely have that same resident paying $1,559, because the city would have to create an entire administrative structure for the new district.
Also, if South Jordan formed its own district, those cities left behind in the Jordan district would likely see residents paying $1,541 in taxes based on a $300,000 home.
Considering a combined revenue of local and state funding, each pupil in a new district would receive $107 less than they would receive if the city stayed in the Jordan School District.
A new South Jordan school district would also likely require a new high school, middle school and elementary school, said Fred Philpot, a senior analyst with the firm.
Philpot also said a new school district could lose access to special programs within Jordan, such as the Kauri Sue Hamilton School (for kids with special needs), the Child Development Center, South Valley School and the Technology Center. He said it could take many years for a new South Jordan district to replicate those programs.
"Due to the fact that general fund expenditures are projected to exceed revenues in the new district, resulting in less cash to operate unless taxes are increased, the ability of the new district to maintain all of these special programs is called into question," according to Philpot’s presentation of the study results.
He said it is possible, however, that a new district could continue to access some of these programs through cooperation with the Jordan district.
Philpot also said a new South Jordan district would likely have higher student test scores than both the current Jordan district as a whole and what would be left of the district if it split, except when it comes to high schools.
After hearing the results of the feasibility study Wednesday night, council members seemed to cool to the idea of a split. Still, the council is holding off on the decision to put the split before voters until Aug. 5 to make sure the Jordan school board officially signs on to the interlocal agreement.