Arbitration ruling issued in Jordan School District split

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Marc GiauqueCOTTONWOOD HEIGHTS -- An arbitration panel is giving Jordan School District most of what it wanted in a dispute over assets in this summer's East-West school district split. The panel Wednesday issued a decision following weeks of study over how everything from buildings, to buses, to debts and teacher retirements should be divided.

The binding arbitration essentially awards the new Canyons School District 41 percent of the overall assets, which total more than $1 billion. The new Jordan District will receive 59 percent. The formula is based on student population.

Buildings, including all their furnishings, will stay in their respective districts. But their appraisals were not considered as assets in the decision.

The panel also decided the Canyons School District will assume 58 percent of the current district's overall debt. Panelists agreed with officials from the new Jordan School District that the East side will inherit a larger share of the tax base, and therefore will have more money coming in on that end.

"The East side voted for the split, they wanted the split, they got what they wanted," said Ralph Haws, Chairman of the West Side Transition team.

"We're pleased that the arbitration panel has reached a decision. The panel's decision is focused on the needs and welfare of the students. We believe that is the proper focus at this time," Haws added.

He says he now hopes the transition will go smoothly and that both sides can work together.

Representatives from the Canyons District had argued they'd inherit many old buildings in need of repair and renovation. But those on the West side claimed they'll have to build more schools in areas where growth is expected to continue to boom.

Representatives for the new Jordan School District say the arbitration only has a few avenues of appeal. They expect Wednesday's decision is the final answer as far as the district split is concerned. The transition is scheduled to take place July 1. District officials expect that transition will be seamless for students.

On its Web site, the Canyons School District posted a statement that reads in part: "This decision ultimately tells us how one school district should be divided into two. We respect and will honor the outcome as a neutral resolution of months of study and examination.

"Canyons is building a brand new school district, the first in nearly 100 years. This decision shows us what tools are available to us to accomplish this challenging and exciting task. We are happy to have this critical matter resolved so that we can get down to the business of building a school district to innovatively serve the needs of children, continue to attract top talent, address pressing building needs unique to our communities, and bring government and decision-making closer to the people."

There are also some further details to be worked out, such as how many buses each district will get.

A legal challenge to the process that led to the districts splitting in the first place could still throw a wrench into the whole process. The 10th Circuit Court of appeals in Denver is considering that case right now.


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