Following lengthy deliberations Wednesday afternoon, the House Education Committee held off on giving the nod to legislation that would set rules on the formation of new school districts.
Sponsored by Representative Craig Hall (Republican – West Valley City), HB 93 -School District Amendments would require a city or interlocal agreement participant would not be allowed to propose a measure to create a new school district if a feasibility study shows that the five-year projected revenue of the new school district exceeds the five-year projected cost by more than 5 percent.
“I believe this is a good, bipartisan bill that protects taxpayers and protects students,” Hall said. He believes that the school board should not be able to “cherry pick” the wealthiest sections of the community to build their tax base, leaving lower socioeconomic areas at a disadvantage.
Six members of the Salt Lake County Council have expressed their support for HB 93 according to Hall while the he Utah League of Cities and Towns is staying neutral on the bill.
Last year, Hall ran a similar bill, HB 84, which passed the House, but died in the Senate.
West Valley City Mayor and former House Member Ron Bigelow spoke about the need for careful planning when splitting school districts. “When we start to do something that may have an impact and change the dynamics of one school over another, we should proceed very cautiosly,” Bigelow said. “If you split school districts, you can have a profound impact on the finances which very well may translate into changes in the classroom.”
South Jordan City Councilman Christopher Rogers spoke against the bill. “[HB 93] significantly dilutes the leverage that cities have to encourage school districts to come to the table. That’s really what it does.” Last year, South Jordan considered breaking off to form their own school district but eventually resolved their issues with the Jordan School District.
Hall expressed his bewilderment over South Jordan’s continued opposition to the legislation. “This bill does not apply to South Jordan. Its does not affect South Jordan at all. I understand why they opposed the bill last year because everybody, including myself and the city of South Jordan, assumed they would be over the 105 percent threshold and it would possibly limit the possibilities of splitting.”
Brian Allen, representing Cottonwood Heights, also expressed his opposition to the bill. “The idea that cities have a voice in this process has created some very positive things in our area and we strongly support the current language because we believe it creates that.”
Representative Justin Fawson (Republican- North Ogden) made a motion to move on to the next agenda item without taking further action. The motion passed on a 5-4 vote.
The action to move on does not necessarily kill the legislation, a hold is not a good sign for the bill.