Bill seeks to set rules on formation of new school districts

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that seeks to set rules on how new school districts can be formed sparked a lengthy debate as it was presented Wednesday to the House Education Committee.

HB93 would implement a policy similar to one used in the formation of new cities, commonly known as the 5 percent rule. That is, if a school board were to split, the new school board would not be allowed "cherry pick" the most financially successful parts of the community to build their tax base, said bill sponsor Craig Hall, R-West Valley City.

Projected income in the new school district would not be allowed to exceed the projected costs by more than 5 percent.

"In other words, the new (school district) can't take more than its fair share of the tax base," Hall said. "This bill is about making sure that in the creation of a new school district, we don't end up with a situation where one geographical area has, for example, 70 percent of the tax base with 30 percent of kids. Or even worse, we shouldn't end up with 70 percent of the kids with 30 percent of the tax base."

The bill was criticized by several community leaders who said it would dilute the leverage cities have to encourage school districts to cooperate with city leaders.

South Jordan City Councilman Christopher Rogers spoke against the bill. Last year, the South Jordan city officials contemplated splitting from the Jordan School District on issues of governance and financial disagreement but eventually resolved the issues.

"We don't want to disincentivize or punish cities and school districts from working together," Rogers said. "Let the school districts and the cities continue to work out these issues that we've worked out on our own."

The committee decided not to vote on the bill Wednesday but to continue deliberations at its next meeting.

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