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WEST JORDAN -- West-side taxpayers protested a proposed 40 percent tax increase at a public hearing last week. On Tuesday, at another public meeting, the board decided to cut that tax increase in half.
Jordan District's compromise with taxpayers
The district voted to implement a 20 percent tax increase on property owners within the district's boundaries. It will cost an extra $68 a year on a $100,000 home and will generate $23.5 million for the district.
"I think the board did what they had to do. It was unpleasant, but something had to be done," said taxpayer Michael Graff.
The compromise will mean taking $21 million out of the district's rainy-day funds to plug the $33 million budget shortfall that comes from a reduction in state funding, the district split and a drop in assessed valuation.
Jordan School District spokeswoman Melinda Colton says the board still has some mixed feelings about the deal because it leaves the district vulnerable.
"Should we have any kind of additional, mid-year cuts from the Legislature, then we will look at instantly more layoffs coming," Colton said.
Royce Van Tassel, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, doesn't think the district's plan is a good idea.
"They used a bunch of money they have in the bank to pay for ongoing programs, and that's the kind of budgeting that got California in trouble. And they'll be back here next year looking at a potentially even bigger increase," Van Tassel said.
But the district says it will also look at cutting hazardous bus routes, community recreation and professional development classes for teachers to save money.
Last week, more than 1,000 people showed up to a public hearing to protest the proposed 40 percent property tax hike.
Jordan schools' boss volunteers pay cut
Meanwhile, in addition to the smaller tax increase, the man in charge of the Jordan School District is voluntarily taking a pay cut. Superintendent Barry Newbold is making the sacrifice beginning with this month's paycheck.
"He came to the board last night and volunteered to take a 10 percent cut in his salary," said Jordan School Board President Peggy Jo Kennett.
The board feels his salary is appropriate.
"He runs the equivalent of a large corporation. He's highly qualified. He's put in many years. He's worked his way up the ladder," Kennett said.The move would reduce Newbold's annual salary from $237,000 to $213,000 and would take effect with his next paycheck. "I think that is just indicative of the attitude and the feeling of the employees in the district, that they are willing to do all that they can to help through this budget crisis," Kennett said.
But critics point out that Newbold received a roughly $40,000 pay increase two years ago. They say he's making far too much, especially in a district where the number of schools and students have been cut.
The Jordan School District says Newbold received a $10,000 increase two years ago and a significant increase from the board about four years ago, but it doesn't know where critics got the $40,000 figure. He's under contract, so the school board could not cut his pay.
Teachers in the Jordan district have had their pay cut by 4.5 percent.