Education equalization bill fails in committee

By Jennifer Stagg | Posted - Feb. 24, 2010 at 11:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- It was a disputed divorce, and assets were split right down the center of the valley. Now the Jordan School District is claiming when the Canyons School District branched off on its own, it took its higher property tax money with it.

Wednesday afternoon, supporters of both districts gathered at the capitol to voice their opinions on House Bill 292, which proposed equalization of property tax funds among the district.

"We fired the Jordan School District because they were not using our resources to benefit our children," one Canyons District supporter said.

"As soon as the growth shifted to the west side, it seemed like the Canyons decided to bail out," a Jordan District supporter said. "It may have been a legal thing to do, but it was not a moral thing to do."

Those from the Canyons District sported neon stickers; Jordan District supporters made signs.

The west-siders from Jordan claimed the Canyons kids get more money per child thanks to higher property values. HB 292 would even things out, they say, giving children in both districts even funds until their district can get on its feet.

"Jordan District needs this bill to allow us time to build up enough of a tax base to provide for our children," another Jordan District supporter said.

But the east-siders argued their taxes have been sent West for far too long, toward new schools their children will never benefit from. They say they already pay a form of "child support" from a bond issue and their east-side schools are outdated and unsafe.

HB 292 has no "sunset," as legislators call it, meaning the equalization of money would have gone to Jordan indefinitely.

"This process has been upheld by federal courts. We've had an arbitration, and I think it's time for both sides to move on," said David Doty, superintendent of the Canyons School District.

After the passionate public comments were heard, the committee called for a vote. HB 292 failed 11-3.

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, says the equalization issue reaches further than these two districts. He wants equal funds for districts statewide.

"The Jordan School District got thrown under the bus," Bird said.

Another representative, Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, vowed he will continue to fight for an equalization bill as well.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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