SALT LAKE CITY — A bill in the Legislature aims to "equalize" funds between Canyons and Jordan school districts by making Canyons fork over $15 million.
Needless to say, Canyons officials aren't happy with the idea.
"No other district in the whole state is required to prop up another district in that manner," said Canyons District Superintendent Dave Doty.
HB292, sponsored by Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, provides for equalization of property tax revenues when a school district division takes place. The proposed legislation would bring Jordan District back to the same per-pupil spending as existed before the split last year.
"We didn't ask for this split, but let's make it equal," Bird said, adding the bill was at the request of Jordan residents and Jordan District officials.
The Jordan District division occurred July 2009, with the east-side Canyons District breaking away from the west side, which remains as Jordan District.
HB292 would make it so one side doesn't have a "significant financial advantage," said Jordan District Superintendent Barry Newbold.
Before the split, Jordan District spent $1,522 on each student. Now it spends $1,136, while Canyons District spends $2,087. The bill would increase Jordan District to $1,522 again per pupil, while Canyons would decrease to $1,582, according to Jordan District figures.
Canyons officials dispute the figures, saying because Canyons District is paying $4 million to Jordan District already through the county equalization program, the current figures of per-pupil spending are more like $1,300 in Jordan District and $1,800 in Canyons.
Newbold says, due to the split, Canyons receives more in local property tax revenue, while Jordan District's property tax revenue has plummeted. Meanwhile, Jordan District also has an increasing enrollment to support.
Doty says his district can't just write a check for $15 million.
"We won't be able to pay it," he said. "It will require a tax increase. There is no doubt about that."
Doty said Canyons District is facing the same budget problems as every other district in Utah. Further, Canyons is already paying $24 million in debt on the outstanding 2003 Jordan District bond, he said.
Bird said, "The bond passed in every precinct. It was the bond of the Jordan School District at the time. This bond is as much theirs as it is ours."
The four Salt Lake County school districts are already required to "donate" money to Jordan District for buildings due to the district's rapidly increasing enrollment.
"That's child support," Bird said.
Doty said, "By the time it's all said and done, we could be funneling $45 million into the Jordan School District out of taxpayers' pockets in Canyons District."
Doty further said the legalities of the split were worked out last year during arbitration. And the split has been upheld in court.
"To run a bill to undo the arbitration ruling is unconscionable," he said. "We have a legal process, let's respect it."
The bill could be heard by the House Education Committee as early as Wednesday.
Go to le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/hbillint/hb0292.htm to view the bill.