Members of the West Jordan City Council have wisely decided that, rather than start building a fleet of ramshackle lifeboats, it would be better for all involved to try to keep the Jordan School District afloat.
Council members danced around several alternatives the other night before deciding not to sink some $41,000 into a study of the ramifications of seceding from the Jordan School District. In so doing, they made real their comments about how they didn’t really want their city to leave the school district, but were worried about what would happen if the larger city of South Jordan did break away, as it is pondering.
South Jordan’s separation, if it happened, would be another step toward a questionable — and expensive — balkanization of school districts in the most heavily populated, and fastest growing, part of the state.
It began in 2008, when the giant Jordan district went though a schism that saw a huge chunk of its tax base spin off into the new Canyons School District, covering the eastern part of the old district. The move also cost taxpayers millions as each district had to have its own copy of functions and operations they once shared.
The split was also a factor in the recent attempt by the Jordan School District to win voter approval of nearly a half billion dollars in bonding authority to build new schools and expand old ones to accommodate the rapidly growing school population.
That bond issue failed overwhelmingly. But the need to handle growth did not go away. And, without access to the tax base of what is now Canyons School District, Jordan will continue to find it more difficult to pay for its own needs.
That’s why the notion that the district should be further vivisected is questionable at best. And why the idea, once raised by officials in South Jordan, has caused concern in West Jordan and the other cities that would be left behind — Riverton, Herriman, Bluffdale, Copperton and some unincorporated territory.
If the larger cities, or clusters of cities, take their big tax bases and go home, they will leave the taxpayers of the other communities with more needs and fewer resources to meet them.
The lure of smaller school districts — thought to include fewer bureaucrats and more attention to personal and neighborhood needs — should be weighed against the inevitable cost-shifting and the rise of have and have-not districts that the state, and its taxpayers, should be loathe to encourage.
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