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S. Jordan hits wall with RDAs

School Board jerks support from project

SHARE S. Jordan hits wall with RDAs

South Jordan city leaders this week may have heard the end of Jordan Board of Education support for redevelopment areas.

The impetus for Tuesday's meeting arose from a controversial letter last month from the city to the school board. In it, the city said it was concerned about its ability to continue funding several school programs, which carry about a $200,000 price tag. The letter also stated that the city could not compete for needed retailers without the use of RDAs and economic development project areas.

"I was very offended," board member Arlen Ekberg said of the letter. Because of the board's recent adverse stand on RDAs and the commingling of the two subjects in the letter, board members took it as a threat that the city would pull school funds without district support of RDAs and EDAs.

Still, the school board and the city agreed to work toward a compromise, at least on the issue of working together to fund school programs, such as parades, pageants and school resource officers provided by the police department. The outcome wasn't so rosy for RDAs.

The Jordan School Board, along with the State Board and Salt Lake County, voted in a taxing agency meeting in May not to support a proposed EDA for the $200 million, 120-acre RiverPark complex already under way. For the school board, the vote means that an estimated $12.9 million in property-tax revenue that would have been diverted into the development over the 15-year life of the EDA instead stays in district coffers.

Board President Ralph Haws told Mayor Dix McMullin and other city leaders Tuesday that the board was opposed in principle and philosophy to RDAs and EDAs and that the board would handle each request for either form of tax-increment financing on a case-by-case basis, looking for a "unique" situation that justifies lending board support.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper and president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said after the meeting that he witnessed a "bellwether" of school boards educating themselves on the economics of property tax subsidies for new business.

South Jordan and other cities claim RDAs and EDAs are the only tool afforded them by the state to help attract business into their communities. After the meeting Stephenson suggested an alternative — letting cities try to attract retail with their own funds, perhaps through truth in taxation, and leaving school districts alone.

"We're faced with budget constraints just like you are," Councilman Russell Sanderson told board members.

City leaders say that by working together, which includes district support of RDAs and EDAs, the problem of building a larger tax base through more retail in a "poor city" could be solved.

Ekberg called tax-increment financing a form of "corporate welfare." He and other board members maintained that the "prime" property occupied by the RiverPark project would develop without an EDA.

E-MAIL: sspeckman@desnews.com