"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sunday Competition and other items

In September, we've had two board meetings.  In summary, this blog will touch on these issues:

Sunday Competition
Community Input Meetings: We NEED YOU!
RDAs (Redevelopment Plans): Your Tax Dollars at Work

Audio for Sept. 11, 2012 located at the bottom of the page here: http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=1223

Audio for Sept. 25, 2012 located at the bottom of the page here: http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=1245

Sunday Competition
The most recent issue was an inquiry into a "new policy" forbidding Sunday competitions in the district.  The short answer is the Board has no policy (new or old) regarding Sunday competitions.  In the past, some teams have asked students to commit to competing on Sundays, should they rise to a national level of competition.  Our administration has recently reiterated that this practice is not allowed.  Because of some of the requirements at national competitions, the lack of participation by one or more of the team would disqualify the entire team.  Coaches and principals have been asked to work together with parents and students to find options for this Catch-22 situation.  By way of information, individual schools, as long as sufficient public input has been sought, can establish a practice of forbidding school competitions on Sundays.  This is what Lone Peak has done, but it has been done at a school, not a district, level. 

We hear a lot about government being by "We, the People".  Well, this is your chance to have a direct impact on your school district!  District administrators (and, when feasible, board members) will be at combined School Community Council/PTA meetings for the next 4 weeks or so.  These meetings are open to the public, and every school will host one.  You can attend any one that you choose, even if you don't have kids in the school.  They will be addressing Common Core, our Mission Vision Values and Goals (MVVG), and any other issue you would like to discuss.  I would recommend you attend and share your thoughts and observations.  This is your opportunity to give direct input on the things that are important to you in our schools.  Bring a friend with you.  Here is a partial list:

Oct 3:
10:00 am Westfield
1:30 pm Mountain Ridge
Oct 4:
9:30 am Alpine
Oct 10:
1:00 pm Lone Peak
Oct 16:
3:40 pm Highland
Oct 17:
9:30 am Cedar Ridge
Oct 18:
1:00 pm Ridgeline
1:30 pm Timberline
Oct 23:
3:45 pm Deerfield

Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs: Your Tax Dollars at Work)
Many of you remember the Vineyard Redevelopment from last year.  For more detailed information, please go here.  As a quick refresher, RDAs are an arrangement where a portion of the additional taxes that will be coming to the district (and other agencies) from increased property values on a development are not collected by the district for a set period of time, but returned to the developer for aid to move more quickly.  The thinking is that, over time and with the tax incentives, additional businesses will come and the development will progress more rapidly.  The end goal is to increase the overall tax base faster than would have otherwise happened.  The district has several criteria used to determine whether or not an RDA is something to consider.  It's important to remain consistent with each entity asking for this type of tax-incentive/deferral. The district has the opportunity to participate in two additional RDAs, currently. 

The first one is with Eagle Mountain City and is called an Economic Development Agency (EDA).  As far as I can tell, this one requires our participation by state law.  It will help develop infrastructure in Eagle Mountain City so a business park can be established and the anchor client can begin operations.  The advantage to this agreement is a cap on the amount of tax dollars to be reinvested, as well as the time commitment.  So, if the tax dollars allocated are spent prior to the 20-year time frame, the district (and the other taxing agencies) start receiving 100% of their tax dollars at that time.  The Board's overall feeling is they want to help Eagle Mountain City with their infrastructure, and this seems to be a reasonable way to do so. 

The second one is an optional situation where we are asked to return a portion of tax revenue for a business park located between Adobe and IM Flash.  The appeal is for the higher tax base that comes with HighTech jobs.  The question is whether or not those jobs would come anyway.

I thought, with Vineyard, this wasn't something that happened very often.  I am finding this is really a fairly common occurrence.  The question for you is what do you think of this kind of practice?  At best, it is the way things are done, and brings additional jobs into our local community.  At worst, it is crony capitalism--government giving incentives to select businesses for some pay-off down-the-road. 

Additionally, the legislature changed the laws on RDAs this past session.  It used to require 2/3 vote of the taxing entities to go forward with a plan.  This put the district (with 2 votes) in a position to lobby the State Board's rep (1 vote) to block anything unfavorable to the school district.  (In the case of Vineyard, the State Board rep voted AGAINST Alpine, as did Commissioner Larry Ellertson, increasing your taxes last year, but that's another story.)  Now, with a simple majority, any taxing plan can be approved without buy-in from the district, even though our tax-incentive will comprise roughly 60% of the total.  I find this change egregiously unfair, because it allows taxation without proper representation.  The legislature makes changes to these rules, by my count, on almost an annual basis.  This is something with great potential impact on all taxpayers, but it doesn't register on the average person's radar.  It would be good to contact your legislators and ask that a proportional representation on these committees (called TECs: Taxing Entity Committees) be put into law, instead of one that allows everyone else to run roughshod over the school district.  Also, the 2/3 majority seems like a better threshold for providing tax-incentives that will impact the local taxpayers.

I don't think this is the proper role of government--determining winners and losers.  I am sympathetic to the argument that some of this helps to bring in new businesses and increase our tax base.  However, a lower tax rate, treating all people and businesses the same, should accomplish the same goal.  So, on the promise of a greater tax base, in say twenty years, our kids now will not reap the benefit of increased development that might have come anyway.  Of course, all this requires a crystal ball, so it's anyone's guess whether the tax-dollar investment will be worth it.  But, as stated in our Board Study Session, we are never presented a proposal where the district isn't supposed to get more money in the long run. 

If you support RDAs, you need to let the local governments know, as well as the legislature.  If you do not support them, you need to get involved in changing the laws at the state level, and lobbying your local government agencies to stop approving them.  If a majority of the entities doesn't vote in favor of the RDA, it doesn't happen.  But, how often does this become an election issue so our officials are held accountable?   It hasn't been, but it should be. 

Next blog: New Assessment/Accountability Requirements from the State/Feds, Differentiated Diplomas and State Textbook Reviews

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