DALLAS — Voters in Utah's Jordan School District — the largest in the state until a controversial 2009 split -- will consider a $495 million bond proposal approved by the district's board on Tuesday.
Faced with unprecedented growth, the board voted unanimously to put the issue before voters, despite the need for a tax increase to support the debt. Homeonwers would pay about $8 to $10 more per $100,000 of property value, according to estimates.
Studies indicate enrollment in the Jordan District could increase by more than 29,000 students in the next 10 years, officials said.
The rapid growth was the major issue that prompted voters in what was once the eastern half of the district to vote to split the district in 2009. The slower growing eastern half, which had higher property values, became the Canyons School District. Voters in the western half, still known as the Jordan District, did not get to vote.
Now the fourth-largest school district in Utah, Jordan enrolls more than 52,000 students in 52 schools, with headquarters about 12 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Jordan lost 44 of its 84 schools as well as a large part of its tax base. The district was also hit with $16 million in state budget cuts when the economy began to decline sharply.
In early 2010, the district school board announced a $20 million shortfall caused by the loss of taxable property, and announced cuts that could slash teacher ranks, increase class sizes and impact extracurricular activities. The cuts led to vocal protests at a February 2010 board meeting.
Despite the economic distress, the Jordan District retained its triple-A ratings and stable outlook from Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.
After the split, taxpayers in the Canyons district remained liable for the debt service on previously issued debt. About 58% of the taxable assessed value and corresponding debt ratio was assigned to the new Canyons district.
At their Tuesday meeting, the Jordan board tentatively agreed to finance eight new elementary schools, two new middle schools and one new high school if voters approve the bonds. In addition, West Jordan Elementary and West Jordan Middle would both be torn down and rebuilt on site. All schools would have air conditioning, and a long list of renovation projects that affect safety in schools throughout the District would be completed.
A public hearing on the bond plan will be held in September.