"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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feb. 22, 2011 Board Meeting

Work Session

Bond Survey
The schedule for the Bond Survey and meetings on the bond was discussed.  Please see the notes from the Feb. 8 board meeting for the schedule.  Please be aware that the Public Input Meetings AND the PTA/SCC Cluster Meetings are open to the public.  The information presented will be the same, so choose whichever one works the best. The results from the bond survey will be available on April 18 and will be presented to the board at the April 19 board meeting. 

Claims and Account Information
Our Business Officer, Rob Smith, spent the rest of the work session reviewing the account codes used on the claims report, discussing the budget, and how the monthly claims and budget reports work.  I found this MOST helpful.

Account Codes:
The Account codes are made up of five parts, separated by periods.  Most of the account codes are structured according to the State Office of Education's recommendations, in conjunction with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The goal of these account codes is to allow consistent, measurable reporting.  The account code structure is as follows.

Function--4 digits
Object--4 digits
Program--4 digits
Fund--2 digits
Location--3 digits

For example, the 1000 function deals with instruction.  So, a report, listing all account items with with function yields a total cost of instruction.  The object code of 0100-0199 is for salary.  So, to see all instructional salaries, you would look for 1000.0100... - 1000.0199... items.  To see instructional salaries for special ed (program code 1200-1299), it would be 1000.0100.1200... - 1000.0199.1299.... and so forth.  To see a list of the account code definitions, please go here.

ClaimsThe claims are an accounting of expenses, after the fact.  They are the verification of the budget process set in June.  (See below.)  Some items to look for in reviewing the claims are as follows.

1. Large or infrequent claims: Last board meeting, I had inquired about a large payment to AF Hospital.  The fund code associated with that transaction was 60 which is for Workman's Compensation.  ASD self-insures for Workman's Comp.  So, whenever there is a claim, the district pays the provider from the 60 fund.

2.  US Bank: ASD uses purchase cards for purchasing in order to simplify the process.  Last month, I noticed a very large sum associated with a single individual.  This individual is the district's main purchasing person.

3.8100.007 accounts are school reimbursement accounts.  Each school has its own budget.  However, to facilitate transactions, many items are paid for through the district, and then reimbursed by the school.

Every expenditure/receipt must be reviewed and approved by the individual's immediate supervisor.  As amounts of expenses go up, there is a hierarchy of who must approve those expenses. 

Monthly Budget Report
The budget report tracks revenue and expenses from the budget and provides any adjustments (i.e. a new grant, reductions in state revenue) to the budget.  If you look at the percentage spent, it is helpful to see how close the budget is.   

Budget Process
Every year, the board creates a budget (by June 22) for the coming fiscal year which starts on July 1.  If you think of the idea of using envelopes for each budget item, the board decides how much money will go in each envelope (budget area).  A final budget for the current year (ending June 30), is also adopted by June 22.  The board may, as needed, adjust the budget, during the year by official board action.

By law, the claims and the budget report are provided to the board, monthly, for on-going verification of the budget process.

Board Meeting

Students and teachers of Fox Hollow Elementary were recognized, and reports from the PTA, SCC, and the principal were given.  I appreciated the PTA president saying they were utilizing email and facebook to communicate with parents.

There were no community comments, so we went to the board committee reports.  There has been some clarification on this issue.

Policy Committee
The policy committee is reviewing policies and making them brief and to the point.  There are also associated procedures that will contain more detail.  There is a new policy on internet usage.

Technology Committee
The district is close to capacity on its wireless network structure.  Interestingly, the measurements are taken right after Christmas, when everyone comes back with their new gadgets.  It is projected that in a year, the network will be maxed out.  There are two issues with wireless at the schools and district office.  First, there is the physical bandwidth component.  At some point, there is a limit on how many devices can be connected to the wireless network.  Also, there is a financial component for every device accessing the internet.  (It comes to approximately $70/year.)  Since students, parents, teachers, and other visitors may access the internet via the district's network at each of our schools there is a discussion about how to handle both of these components.

Legislative Committee
There are more education bills before the legislature this year than ever before.

PR Committee--BYU-PSP Leadership Associates Meeting
The PR Committee attended the BYU-PSP Leadership Associates Meeting in St. George in January.  Since the partnership has disassociated itself from the National Network for Education Renewal (NNER), the meeting was conducted to discuss the mission and values of the partnership, as a separate entity from NNER.  There was quite a bit of discussion and is an on-going process.  However, it was agreed that the values were good values and all were contained in the Utah Constitution.

My comment: I was pleased with the break from the NNER.  I thought the partnership group could and should establish their direction, using our shared goals and values without looking to an outside group for our inspiration.

PR Committee
ASD is getting a new website.  It is more streamlined and user-friendly.  I am pleased to be on this committee to review this process.  We are hopeful the new website will be launched by the beginning of April.

North Utah County Medical Coalition
I represent the board on this medical coalition.  It is a collection of representatives from the district, and several health-related agencies in the county (e.g. Wasatch Mental Health, Nurses' Association, Utah County Health Department, BYU Comprehensive Clinic).  We had a presentation from Kids on the Move about their Early Intervention (home visits, library resources) and Early Head Start (weekly in-home visits dealing with health habits, etc) programs.  There is also a Day Care program, specializing in irregular hours.  Finally, we heard from the director of the "Bridges" autistic program.  There are many people who are unable to get into the Giant Steps program for autism and "Bridges" is a good alternative.  The final part of the coalition meeting is for those to discuss what needs and/or resources they have, and see if someone else may be able to help or use those resources.

Community Comments Format
The board has adopted a new format for community comments, as follows.
1. Total time limit of 30 minutes, per meeting.
2. Sign up before the meeting.
3. Time limited to 3 minutes/person.
4. No sharing of the 3 minute period.
5. Follow-up with a district staff member.
6. If a group attends, a representative from that group will be given 5 minutes.
7. We may ask for the group to raise their hands to get to know how many share that issue.
8. If a large group needs more time, we may arrange a time for them to meeting with district officials and a few board members.

Board Member Resignation
Board Member, Guy Fugal, has tendered his resignation, effective March 9, 2011.  He and his wife will be serving a mission for the LDS Church in London.  I am grateful for the association I have had with Guy, his welcoming attitude, and helpful advice.

The board has 30 days from the date of resignation to fill the position.
Feb. 25 - Mar. 18: Posting of the board position.
Mar. 8: The board will agree on the interview questions.
Mar. 22: The board will review the candidates.
Mar. 29: The board will interview the candidates in an open board meeting.
Mar. 30: A special board meeting will be held to announce the appointment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feb. 8, 2011 Work Session and Board Meeting

A public meeting will be held March 23 at 7pm at the Vineyard City Offices (see notice here) on the URA.   I urge all who are interested to attend.  Also, if you haven't contacted the County Commissioners to express your opinion on revisiting the terms of the URA, please do so.  And, please thank the State School Board for their direction to reassess the terms of this URA.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program....

Work Session

Bond Survey
The bond survey questions were reviewed and tweaked.  The board decided to use the full population to determine the survey sample, as opposed to the number of kids in the schools in given areas.  There will be a 35 - 40 person test run, to make sure the questions make sense.  Here are some dates for the bond discussion.

April 6
12:00 pm Mayor's Lunch (all mayors from our area will be invited to meet and discuss the bond with the board)

PTA/SCC Cluster Meetings
All PTA and SCC (school community council) members from all the schools that feed into the high school listed.  I assume, since these are SCC meetings, they are open to the public.

American Fork: April 20 1:00 - 2:00 pm
Lehi: April 20 1:00 - 2:00 pm
Pleasant Grove: April 22 10:00 - 11:00 am
Orem: April 22 10:00 - 11:00 am
Lone Peak: April 26 10:00 - 11:00 am
Mountain View: April 26 10:00 - 11:00 am
Westlake: April 28 10:00 - 11:00 am
Timpanogos: April 28 10:00 - 11:00 am

Employee Input Meetings
Orem JH: April 20 3:00 and 4:00 pm
Vista Heights Middle: April 21 3:00 and 4:00 pm
Mountain Ridge JH: April 26 3:00 and 4:00 pm

Community Input Meetings
Mountain View HS: May 4 7:00 pm
Willowcreek: May 11 7:00 pm
American Fork JH: May 12 7:00 pm

BYU-PSP and UVU K-16 Alliance

UVU Alliance: This partnership has been in place for about 1.5 years.  It is made up of the UVU College of Ed and the Superintendents of the 7 local districts that make up the state's UVU region.  (The state is divided into Higher Ed regions, with those school districts that geographically match to a Higher Ed school.)  This relationship has been encouraged on a state level from the State Office of Ed, the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Higher Ed.  The challenge for the alliance is to create a smooth transition from high school to college.  A key component of this is to help counselors.  In order to do this, there has been a counselor conference.  They are also looking at math, transitioning high school to college math, and concurrent enrollment in math.

BYU-PSP: This has been going on for 26 years.  It comprises the Dean of the College of Ed and the superintendents of the 5 partners school districts (ASD, Nebo, Provo, Jordan, and Wasatch) as the governing board.  CITES (Center for Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling) is the operational arm of the partnership.  Steve Baugh is the director of CITES and the executive director of the partnership.  The concept is that to have good schools, you must have good teachers.  So, the people who are studying to be teachers (pre-service), as well as the district teachers (in-service) can benefit from training, research, and certification coordinated between the districts and BYU.  Also, things like Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are taught at BYU and UVU.  This allows new teachers (of which ASD has quite a few every year) to hit the ground running.

Funding: One of the school districts is the fiscal agent of the partnership.  That rotates around to different districts.  Currently, Jordan is the fiscal agent.  Many of the funds come from the districts paying, per participant, for certification courses.  Another source of funding comes from conferences.  For example, this year, March 9 - 11, there is a CITES conference in Salt Lake on 21st Century Schooling.  It has a national presence, and those who attend pay a fee.  The people they bring in for the conferences are cutting-edge, high-end, research-based experts.  Any profit from the conferences also goes to the partnership.

Finally, research is a huge challenge for teachers.  How do you know your methodology is working?  Teaming with BYU allows the school to research the methods being used in the schools.  Also, some teachers from the districts are able to take a 2-year sabbatical to teach and instruct at the College of Ed, so it's "real world" experience, not just theoretical.

In 2008, about 55% of ASD's teachers came from BYU or UVU (40% BYU, 15% UVU).  2009: 34% BYU, 16% UVU. 2010: 47% BYU, 23% UVU or 70% of ASD new hires come from one of the two partnership schools.  The partnerships are not something "extra" the district does.  It is part of the district culture and makes us a better district.  It continues on because it is viable.

My Take: Partnerships
Everyone is very enthusiastic about the partnerships.  I will be attending the CITES-sponsored conference in March to get a hands-on understanding of how the partnership works.  I will keep you updated.

Board Meeting

There were 2 recognitions.  Teacher, Kim Bahr, received the Karl Jones Award from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  Alpine Elementary received the James Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, a national award.

Sam Jarman, supervisor over the high schools, presented the CRT (state standardized test) results.  There are 14 school districts in the Salt Lake and Utah Valley areas that are similar to ASD.  ASD ranks 3 of 14 on these tests.  Also, our AP class offerings have increased.  The use of interactive video has allowed some smaller schools to provide AP classes annually, whereas, they may have only been able to offer those classes every two years in the past.  This year, on March 1, all high school juniors (with one school opting out) will be able to take the ACT at no charge because of a state pilot program.  It is assumed that ASD's ACT scores may decrease because of the greater number of students taking the test.  However, giving more students that opportunity may open up greater avenues to them.  Currently, ASD outranks Utah (and Utah outranks the US) in both percentage of students taking the ACT, as well as ACT composite scores.

The board approved January's claims, and routine business items.  Only Board Member Fugal abstained on the claims.  I was able to receive input on some specific issues I raised on the claims.  I would still like to find a better way of handling those claims, but, as one wise person counseled, it isn't fair to prevent district business from taking place because I am not up to speed.  Touche.  I still appreciate hearing your comments on how best to represent you on this, and other issues.

Closed session was held to discuss personnel, litigation, and property matters.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Feb. 22, 2011 Board Meeting Agenda



1450 W. 3200 N.



4:00 P.M.

A study session will be held prior to the regular board meeting. The purpose of the study session

will be to (1) review the bond survey and finalize the timeline of when the survey will be given;

(2) review the M&O and Capital Outlay budget process; and, (3) review the process for putting

together the monthly Claims report.


6:00 P.M.

AGENDA ITEMS Introduced by

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE Paula Hill, Board Member










*Time set aside for community comments is not a time to discuss specific personnel issues. Personnel issues are

not appropriate discussion items for an open-meeting environment. If you have a personnel concern, we ask that

you contact a member of the administration or put your concern in writing and address it to the Board of Education.

Monday, February 7, 2011

USBA: Day on the Hill

I attended the USBA Day on the Hill at the Capitol building today (Jan. 28, 2011).  I had wanted to be able to meet with some Senators and Representatives, but it was quite difficult.  Note to self: Set up meeting times in advance.  Somehow, they are all busy during a 45-day session.  Go figure.

USBA has meetings every Friday during the legislative session, along with the Utah School Superintendents Association (USSA) and the Utah Association of School Business Officers (UASBO), to weigh in on current legislation.  Each organization selects delegates, and many months prior to the legislative session, they decide on a general direction for the bills they will and will not support.  Once the legislature is in session, these combined groups vote on the current bills.  It requires 2/3 majority to take a position on a bill.  Options are Support, Oppose, Hold (with comment sometimes), Local Control (oppose because this should be an issue of local control), Unnecessary. 

Prior to the voting, we were addressed by Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, Christine Kearl (Governor's Education Director), Sen. Lyle Hilyard, Rep. Mel Brown, and Rep. Bird. 

Lt. Gov. Bell
Lt. Gov. Bell discussed the compelling stories of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.  He said that both stories were compelling.  He suggested people have a tendency to tell their own story, and not listen to the other side.  He gave some information about the budget situation.  Last year, there was a 22% cut in every department of state, 16% cut in Higher Ed, and 12 % cut in Public Ed.  He also said the Governor recognizes you don't improve public ed by the legislature lobbing bills into education like bombs from a plane.  It won't work because there's no buy-in.  On the other hand, he asked us to recognize the new political and fiscal realities, bring concrete examples to the legislature to help them understand, and realize this is the new normal--it isn't going to be like it was.

Christine Kearl
Christine Kearl discussed the Governor's Education Committee.  Since I have reviewed this elsewhere, I will just give a brief synopsis with the budget amounts associated with each issue.

The main goal of this committee is to have 66% of Utahns (20 - 64) have a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2020.  This is based on a study showing what education will be required of our workforce to continue economic development in our state. 

Above all, the Governor is committed to funding growth in our public schools.  After that, there are 8 proposals (which passed unanimously) from the Ed Committee.

1.) Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten: $7.5M
2.) Reading Literacy: $2M to Utah State Office of Education (USOE) for this
3.) Common Core State Standards: $2M (USOE)
4.) Assessment Improvements: $1M (USOE)
5.) Mission-Based Funding: Fund higher ed, not on enrollment, but on outcomes, e.g. degrees and completion: $1M
6.) Internal Alignments: Better networking w/ Public, Applied Tech, and Higher Ed: $250K
7.)Utah Cluster Acceleration Program: Higher Ed collaborates with businesses, e.g Weber working with Aerospace Technology: $250K
8.) Online Early College: Concurrent enrollment for high school students to take GE courses:$500K

Gov's Budget:
$215M projected NEW money this year.  Governor wants to spend $50M for public education's growth and $13M as listed above.  There is a $315M structural imbalance (this means that the budget from last year had $315M more expenses than on-going revenue, e.g. Feds sent one-time money, rainy day funds).  Last year's motto was "Do More with Less".  This year's is "Do More with the Same".

Sen. Lyle Hilyard
Says there's support for Extended-Day Kindergarten, but discussed the budget figures.  The $315M 'structural imbalance' means if we do nothing with our budgets, we are down $315M.  Two years ago it was $550M, so the legislature brought it down quite a bit last year.  The goal this year is to get it to $0 (from the legislature's perspective.  The Gov. wants to use rainy day funds to leave a $200M imbalance going forward.)  The $315M imbalance is 7% of the total budget.  Each legislative chair is to cut 7% from his/her budget.  This doesn't mean that everyone will end up with a 7% cut, but everyone is expected to bring 7% to the table.  He also mentioned that education was 50% of the state's budget.  If education does not get cut at all, every other entity must double their cuts.  He said he receives people in his office describing dire medical situations, e.g. people on life support, who will be cut off without on-going aid from the state.  It's a difficult place to be in.  He asked that we understand this situation. 

Rep. Mel Brown
Discussed the 7% budget cuts across the board, and said the legislature would like to fund growth in education just like the Governor.

Rep. Bird
Discussed the bill to allow school boards to sell bus space for advertisers.  There are limitations on where the ads go (e.g. not on the back), and the content (no alcohol, suggestive content, street signs, etc).

Bill Status
HB50: School Termination Procedure
SB115: School Performance Reporting
HB195: Debt Service Obligations of a Divided District
HB199: Advertisements on School Buses
SB38: K-3 Reading

HB65: Public School Funding
HB72: Taxes and related school funding
SJR1: Joint Resolution on State Board of Education
SJR9: Governance and Public Ed

Local issue/unnecessary:
HB220: Civics Education
HJR3: Joint Resolution promoting healthy and energy efficient schools
HB218: Clubs in Public Schools

SB21: Tax Revisions--concerned with loss of revenue
SB119: School District Superintendent Amendment--Ask Sen. Stephenson to propose amending the current language which already allows local districts to hire Superintendent's without an Administrative Education License but not allow the USOE to veto that process.  The USOE can still run background checks and provide information to the local board, but can't derail the hiring. Currently, the USOE 'may grant' approval to the school board.  If the bill just says 'shall grant' it will accomplish the same things as Sen. Stephenson's bill.

My Take: Bills
I have not found an official link to the list of bills supported, etc.  When I do, I will pass it along.  I found the process interesting. 

I partially disagreed with the vote on SB119.  The bill seemed fine to me as written.  In fact, the difference is 'as written' the superintendent is not granted a license by the USOE, but may still be hired by the local board.  The suggestion by the USBA was to continue to have the USOE grant an admistrative license but withdraw the USOE's veto power in this instance. 

HB220 didn't pass because it was deemed unnecessary for local control, mirroring the comments in the committee hearing.  I didn't understand from the discussion that this was simply adding a few lines to the existing law, discussing civics education.  It was mostly a clarification, and I would definitely support it.  Since I am not a delegate, I was unable to vote. 

One interesting note, Deputy Supt. Menlove of the USOE said they had difficulty providing a 7% budget cut to the legislature.  They decided to suggest a cut to the FlexWPU which is an amount the state provides to local districts to offset their social security and retirement costs (required by law).  The unofficial consensus from those of us at ASD was this would have been the last thing we would have suggested.  Instead, we would cut specific programs.  That's what we do as individuals.

Also, there is a petition to oppose partisan state and local school board elections.


I am asking for your help in deciding how to handle claims. 

Every month, all the expenditures of the previous month are approved by the board.  The full report is listed on the district website, and can be reviewed by the public. (See the section marked 'claims', expand, and download.)  This information is usually posted three or four days in advance of the board meeting (2nd Tuesday of each month). 

All expenses over a certain dollar amount must be approved by a supervisor.  All expenses over $5000 must be approved by the superintendent or the cabinet (those who directly report to the superintendent).  All expenses over $10,000 are approved by the board.  In addition, the board creates the annual budget, and, as such, determines how much money goes into each fund.  If you think of funds as envelopes for budgeting, you'll get the idea.  There's a general fund, a capital fund, etc.   The capital fund has to be used on things with a useful life (accounting term) of more than one year.  Most often, capital items are buildings, furniture, computers, buses, etc.  The general fund pays for salaries and day-to-day operating expenses.  Also, each school has a budget, and they can spend up to a given amount without going through approval at the district level.  Also note, anything listed as account '8100' or 'Pay 8100' is an amount the district paid for on behalf of a given school, and the school is receiving the money for it.  For example, some schools have cell towers on their property that allow them to collect money from the cell providers (or whomever).  The renters pay ASD, and ASD pays that portion back to the school. 

Here's my issue.  As a board member, I am approving all the expenditures for the previous month.  However, there are so many, it is virtually impossible to see and understand all of them in such a short period of time.  If I am accountable for those expenditures, then I feel an obligation to approve each of them.  If not, then should I be voting on them?  It has been suggested that I look over the list and see what things stick out.  What would you do?  I would appreciate your help in both reviewing the claims, and recommending how you would like to see this oversight exercised.

Agenda: Feb. 8, 2011 District Office


4:00 P.M.

The purpose of the study session will be to (1) follow-up on the questions for the bond survey,

(2) review the BYU Public Education Partnership and K-16 Alliance with UVU, and (3) discuss

other current issues.


6:00 P.M.

AGENDA ITEMS Introduced by

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE Debbie Taylor, Board President





CLAIMS FOR JANUARY Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent


1. Budget Report Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent

2. Personnel Reports “

3. Alpine Foundation Report “

4. Student Releases – AA, JB, BB, SB, MC, BC, MD




5. Student Expulsions – MB, KD, DG, AJ, NV, AS

6. Student Reinstatement - TH

7. Investment Report
8. Property Item Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent

  A. Real Estate Purchase in Highland


1. School Improvement Report for the Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent
High Schools

2. Membership Report




Friday, February 4, 2011

Your Voice Counted: Vineyard URA May Be Revisited

Today, the Utah State School Board instructed their URA representative, Larry Newton, to readdress the Vineyard URA.  The concern from the board was the process for the URA.  The board members did state they did not necessarily disagree with Mr. Newton's approval of the URA.  However, most of the board were unaware of the URA.  They felt with a URA of this magnitude, there should have been some oversight from the board.  I, so appreciate, the State Board for recognizing this situation and wanting to mitigate it.  Please let them know of your appreciation. 

Also, there was discussion as to when Mr. Newton was appointed, originally in 1993 and most recently, perhaps in 2001 or 2002.  The state board would like to set some standards as to length of time and dollar amounts for board involvement in these issues, instead of just allowing their representative to act in their behalf.  Then, Mr. Newton's appointment to the URA was reaffirmed.  Some board members mentioned all the emails they had received.  So, thanks to all of you who contacted the state school board.

Our state school board member, Carol Murphy, was especially helpful in turning this into a discussion of Vineyard specifically, and not just a general discussion of their policy on URA's going forward.  Also, fellow board member, Paula Hill, and citizen Jared Carmen, addressed the board on this issue during public comments.  It appears those comments helped sway the board to discuss the specifics on Vineyard later in the day. 

Next step:  In order for the URA to actually be brought back to the table for discussion, there must be a 2/3 majority of the Taxing Entity Committee (TEC).  This means the County Commissioners, and the Misc. Taxing Entity representative will need to be willing to bring this back to the table (as well as ASD).  Please contact the County Commissioners and request they support bringing the URA back for negotiation.  It is important to note Alpine's School Board is not opposed to the URA in principle, but is concerned with the terms right now.  Two independent financial consultants and the Utah Taxpayers Association do not recommend the current scenario.  So please contact all three commissioners, but especially Commissioner Ellertson (801-851-8133 larrye@utah.gov ) and Commissioner Anderson (801-851-8135 garya@utah.gov )--the County's 2 representatives on the TEC.  Commissioner Whitney may be reached at 801-851-8136 or dwhitney@utah.gov

Special thanks to my husband, Scott (who has to spend a lot of time making up work since he was babysitting), Paula's husband (who has accompanied her everywhere), and Joel Wright (for reading legislation and minutes, and writing the first letters). 

But, most especially, thanks to all of you for contacting your representatives and asking to be heard!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Letter to State School Board from ASD parent: Why did you raise taxes $300 million in Alpine School District? (without one cent going to public ed)

It may be possible to readdress the Vineyard URA if one of the parties who voted in favor of the URA is willing to go back to the table within 30 days.  I would ask you to contact the Utah State School Board and Utah County Commissioner, Larry Ellertson and request they take another look at this project from the perspective of the ASD taxpayer. 

In light of that information, and because I agree with the content, I have reprinted this letter (with permission) from a parent in our district to the Utah State School Board about the Vineyard URA. I have included everything as sent with the exception of an image file I am unable to upload to this blog. I have also deleted email addresses, phone etc.  Thanks to Joel Wright for this letter and his information.


Dear Utah State School Board,

Did you know that on January 18, 2011 you raised taxes by $300 million

in Alpine School District?

Did you know that not one cent of that $300 million will go towards

public education?

Most likely you've never heard of this tax increase, and also believe

you never voted for it, but your attorney, Carol Lear, is claiming you

did properly approve and authorize this tax increase because of an

approval Larry Newton received 18 years ago in 1993. (See her email

below as EXHIBIT ONE to this email.)

I will explain the details below. But what I'm really writing to

request is that you reserve 20 minutes at your meeting on February 4,

2011 to get a 10 minute explanation from Larry Shumway and Larry

Newton as to why Larry Newton voted to approve this $300 million tax

increase on January 18, 2011, and also get a 10 minute explanation

from Alpine School District as to why they are absolutely dumbfounded

and horrified by Larry Newton's vote in favor of this tax increase.

In short, here are the undisputed facts:

Anderson Geneva purchased most of the land formerly used by Geneva

Steel in the city of Vineyard on the east coast of Utah Lake in Alpine

School District several years ago.

This land is inarguably "blighted" - meaning the land has extensive

environmental damage that requires remediation before it can be


According to independent evaluations, the cost of cleaning up this

environmental damage is $150 million. No one has produced any

document indicating it will cost more than this amount.

In early 2010, the "Vineyard Urban Redevelopment Agency" (or "Vineyard

URA") was created. The membership of the Vineyard URA consists of the

following members:

1. Two members from Alpine School District (Rob Smith and Guy Fugal)

2. Two members from Utah County (Larry Ellertson and Gary Anderson)

3. Two members from Vineyard City (Nathan Riley and Jim Carter)

4. One member appointed by the Utah State Board of Education (Larry Newton)

5. One member appointed by smaller taxing entities (Dave Pitcher from

Central Utah Water)

(You can see the limited minutes and meetings of this body here:

http://www.vineyard.utah.gov/interior.asp?pageid=3749&offset=0 )

This group met on January 18, 2011, and approved a $300 million

property tax break for the old Geneva site by a vote of 5 to 2 (only

Gary Anderson from Utah County was not present.) Alpine School

District voted against it, and everyone else who was present,

including Larry Newton, voted in favor of it. Because a 2/3 vote was

required to approve the property tax break, any one of the 5 votes

would have stopped it. In other words, Larry Newton's single vote was

enough for it to pass.

Alpine School District was led to believe that Larry Newton would NOT

vote in favor of the property tax break unless Alpine School District

was also willing to vote in favor of it, and was completely shocked by

his vote in favor of it.

I emailed Superintendent Larry Shumway on Monday, January 24, 2011

asking him the following questions, and still have not received a


1. Why did Larry Newton vote in favor of this $300 million property tax break?

2. Why didn't Larry Newton inform Alpine School District that he was

going to vote in favor of the tax break? Why did he have to surprise


3. Did an outside authority (like the Governor) encourage Larry

Shumway or Larry Newton in any way to vote for this tax break? If so,

what were their arguments in favor of it?


At any rate, we are simply mortified by this series of events down

here in Alpine School District, and believe we are at least entitled

to an explanation before we pay an additional $300 million in taxes.

Note also that outside parties like the Utah Taxpayers Association

have reviewed this $300 million tax break, and are completely opposed

to it. To date, everyone opposed to this tax break is willing to talk

at length about why they oppose, but no one who voted in favor of it

is willing to provide any explanation. Furthermore, everyone on both

the right and the left are united in their opposition to this $300

million tax break. This is not a partisan issue.

Please review the materials below, and feel free to call or email me,

or also to call or email anyone at Alpine School District on this very

important matter.

Finally, the most important thing you can do at this point is bring

sunlight to this matter, and schedule twenty minutes to hear from both

sides at your February 4, 2011 meeting. Note that Larry Newton is

already required under Utah Code 17C-1-402(11) to provide a written

explanation as to why he voted in favor of this $300 million tax

break, so it shouldn't require any additional time for him him to

prepare that write up now, and read it to you at your February 4, 2011


I believe the students, teachers and taxpayers of Alpine School

District deserve nothing less.


Joel Wright

Parent of children in Alpine School District

Taxpayer in Alpine School District


1. Exhibit One: Email from Carol Lear dated January 26, 2011,

stating Larry Newton was appointed to the Vineyard URA due to what

appear to be minutes from a 1993 State Board of Education meeting.

Copies of those minutes, as well as a 2001 and 2003 letter, are

attached in PDF.

2. Exhibit Two: Email from Joel Wright to Larry Shumway dated

January 24, 2011, asking Superintendent Shumway to explain Larry

Newton's vote in favor of the Vineyard URA. (No response received as

of January 28, 2011)

3. Exhibit Three: Statement from Alpine School District explaining

their opposition to the $300 million tax break.

4. Exhibit Four: Blog Post from Alpine School District Board Member

Wendy Hart explaining her opposition to the $300 million tax break.

5. Exhibit Five: Blog Post from Alpine School District Board Member

Paula Hill explaining her opposition to the $300 million tax break.

6. Exhibit Six: Editorial by Joel Wright (me) that appeared in the

Daily Herald in July 2010 expressing opposition to the $300 million

tax break.

7. Exhibit Seven: Blog Post from Community Activist Oak Norton

applauding Alpine School District's opposition to the $300 million tax


EXHIBITS (below):


materials attached in PDF):

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Lear, Carol

Date: Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Subject: FW: Scan from a Xerox WorkCentre

To: Joel Wright
Cc: "Hauber, Todd"

Joel--I have two statements, signed by the former State Board Chair,

appointing Larry Newton (Taxing Committee Member) and Cathy Dudley

(alternate Taxing Committee Member). I also have two pages which look

like they are from minutes of a State Board agenda, dated July 14,

1993. I would like clarification that these 2 pages are, indeed,

Board minutes before I say that they are! The Board Secretary is gone

for the day. Even so, given the urgency of your request, I will scan

and email the pages. We haven't yet found a copy of an Agenda

identifying the specific "appointment." But those appointments or

assignments were more informal then; I will follow up tomorrow with an

agenda item (if there was one) during which the assignment took place.

Carol Lear, Records Officer

Utah State Office of Education


24, 2011 (still no response received)

On Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 10:37 AM, Joel Wright wrote:

> Superintendent Shumway,

> As I believe you are aware, on January 18, 2011 the USOE's representative on

> the Vineyard RDA voted to approve a $300 million tax break for the next 35

> years. This is the largest such tax break in the history of Utah, and has a

> number of long term consequences for Alpine School District, where I live

> and have children attending school.

> As I believe you are also aware, the USOE's single vote determined the

> outcome. A two-thirds majority was required for approval, and it passed by

> a vote of 5-2. Had the USOE voted against, it would have failed.

> Because of that, I would be grateful if you could provide me with the

> following information:

> 1. Written explanation of why the USOE voted in favor of the Vineyard RDA.

> When doing so, we would be grateful if you could specifically respond to

> the reasons why the Alpine School District is opposed to the current form of

> the Vineyard RDA here:

> http://www.heraldextra.com/article_7e8bbe7e-25a7-11e0-9839-001cc4c002e0.html In

> addition, further reasons why one individual board member of the Alpine

> School Board is opposed to the current form of the Vineyard RDA can be found

> here:

> http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2011/01/why-your-property-taxes-are-going-up.html

> 2. Why did you "surprise" Alpine School District with your vote?

> Historically, the State Office of Education has always voted with the

> School District on an RDA. Everything Alpine School District had heard from

> you until the vote on January 18, 2011 led them to believe that you would

> still vote against the RDA. Had you informed Alpine School District you

> were going to vote in favor of it, they could have used their vast network

> to contact the Utah County Commissioners and encouraged them to vote

> against. Maybe they should have been doing that anyway, but they are

> currently feeling like they were very much "surprised" by your sudden vote

> in favor of the RDA without any prior warning.

> 3. Did Governor Herbert, or anyone representing the Governor, or anyone

> from one of the Governor's offices, contact you or anyone at USOE before the

> vote on January 18, 2011 and encourage you to vote in favor of the Vineyard

> RDA? If so, can you please share with us who it was, and a summary of the

> reasons they gave to you to vote for the Vineyard RDA?

> Many Thanks,

> Joel Wright

> Taxpayer and Parent in Alpine School District





Alpine School District releases statement on Vineyard tax breaks

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011 2:40 pm

Alpine School District officials on Friday released the following

statement about the recent approval of $300 million in tax breaks for

Vineyard development:

"Alpine School District did not vote in favor of the Vineyard URA.

District officials are members of the Taxing Entity Committee (TEC)

that voted in a meeting on January 18, 2011, where Alpine School

District voted no to approving the Vineyard URA. The voting members of

the committee were: Vineyard City (2 votes), Utah County (2 votes),

Alpine School District (2 votes), the State School Board (1 vote), and

one representing all other taxing entities (1 vote). There were seven

of the eight members present for the vote. Five voted in favor of

passing the URA, 2 votes - both from Alpine School District - voted

against the URA.

Alpine School District officials had three major concerns with the

original URA proposal:

The length of time - 40 years.

The 400 + acres of residential included in the plan. The taxes on the

homes do not pay for the full cost of the educational services.

The base year used for tax increment calculation was 2006. This was

based on Legislation originally proposed and passed by Senator Curt

Bramble in 2008. The concern that ASD has is that this will negatively

impact all tax payers in Alpine School District.

Members of the URA Proposal Committee met with the ASD Board of

Education in a study session on January 11. The length of time for the

URA had been decreased from 40 years to 35 years. Additionally, there

was discussion about mitigation payment, however, an updated proposal

that included the details about the mitigation was not presented.

A vote was taken one week later. ASD officials continued to vote

against the proposal. With a five out of seven vote in favor of the

proposal, it did pass. Despite the opposition of Alpine School

District officials, we will continue to move forward in working with

our community."




Why Your Property Taxes are Going Up: Vineyard URA

If you live in the Alpine School District, your property taxes are

going to go up. Due to the recent passage of the Vineyard Urban

Redevelopment Agency (URA) project, the county will automatically

adjust the tax rates and increase your property taxes and mine. The

question was whether a commercial entity should receive tax breaks for

the next 35 years in exchange for developing a blighted property.

This may be a good idea for the people of Vineyard, the developer and,

possibly, the state of Utah, but it is a bad idea for the taxpayers of


First, let me give you some background. There are two types of

development projects CDA's (Community Development Agencies, like Adobe

or Micron) and URA's (like Geneva). The main difference is a URA must

develop a blighted area; whereas, a CDA does not. A URA allows a

development group to not pay their normal tax rate (above a certain

threshhold, for a specific time period) and instead use that money to

develop their property. A committee (TEC) of all the taxing entities

(City, County, School District, State Office of Education, etc.) is

formed, and must agree to the proposal by a 2/3 majority. In theory,

we give tax breaks to a development group to improve an area in the

short term, with an increase in taxable value and community and

economic improvement as the long-term gain.

The Vineyard URA comprises the former Geneva Steel property. It

includes areas that are contaminated and structures that would be

costly to remove. The developer has said without the URA monies, they

would simply have to fence about 700 contaminated acres and leave it

alone. Some local legislators feel that without this money, we would

have a big eyesore for decades. The developers and city of Vineyard

agree. But it is a gamble as to whether or not, in 35 years, that

property would be developed. In short, is this a necessary process to

clean-up the former Geneva property, and allow everyone to eventually


Whenever I am faced with a decision, I try to decide which principles

apply. For me, government has no place picking winners and losers in

commercial activities. Some people's politics may allow for government

to be involved in commercial development. Mine, do not. If we give

tax breaks to one group of taxpayers, why not to all the taxpayers?

Having said that, we are forced, by law, to be involved. So, from a

pragmatic point of view, I need to find the best benefit I can to both

the schools of the district and to you, the taxpayers.

Here's how it works. Let's assume the property is worth $1 million

and ASD gets 1% in property taxes, or $10,000/year. With the URA, ASD

will still get their 1% every year of the URA from the developer. But

if in 2 years, the property value increases to $10 million, ASD gets

$10,000 but the developer retains $90,000 to reinvest in development

of the property, and so on. At the end of the URA period, say the

property is worth $1 Billion, then ASD would get their 1% or $10

Million. Every year after that, the property is treated the same as

any other property for tax purposes.

The school board felt this URA was a bad idea for the following

reasons. (Read the official response here.)

First, the state legislature mandated that instead of using current

property value, the URA had to use the property value from 2006. Why

is that important? Because the Geneva property value has gone up. By

using the 2006 value, the legislature gave this developer a greater

tax break. The consequence is that everybody else in the Alpine

School District must now pay higher taxes to make up the difference.

We were told that part of the reason for the 2006 base year was to

allow the developer to have 'seed money' for the development. If the

base year were not set by law to 2006, there would be no additional

burden on the taxpayers. It would just be additional revenues that

would be forfeited.

Second, 35 years is a long time. No one can predict what will occur

over the next 35 years. ASD is growing and has needs right now. Do

we honestly think the greatest demand for that property's revenue

won't be for 35 years in the future? Children who are being born now,

will have graduated from ASD schools, and be sending their kids to

those same schools before the benefit of this project will appear. It

is projected that ASD will lose a total of $200M in revenue over the

35 years. A Daily Herald article says ASD will receive $16

million/year from the Geneva site after the 35 years. $200 M lost /

$16 M year = 12 years to make up the lost revenue after year 35.

Third, the URA includes residential areas. These residences will have

children who will attend school in ASD. Even though ASD will not

receive any funds for those children, ASD will need to accommodate

them in district schools.

Finally, ASD had two independent financial consultants and the Utah

Taxpayers Association run the numbers. All three said the total

amount, length of time and rollback of the base year prevented them

from recommending that ASD sign on to this project. A representative

from the Taxpayers Association said it would cost $150 million to

remove the blight. This would allow the developer to correct the

problem areas, leaving them with usable property. Remember, the URA

was for $300 million. The tax payers are financing $150 million of the

actual development instead of simply making the property usable.

(For a good article on reclaiming the blight, but not subsidizing the

development, go here.)

ASD's two members on the TEC voted against the URA. The two reps from

Vineyard City, one of two from Utah County (one didn't show), one from

the Utah State Board of Education, and the member representing all the

other misc taxing agencies voted in favor of the proposal. As such,

ASD's taxpayers are obligated to go along. (Incidentally, an article

in the Daily Herald incorrectly implied ASD was in favor of the


If you agree this is a good proposal, then you need to do nothing. If

you disagree, you need to contact your legislators and share this

information with your neighbors.

From the legislation, it appears that a resident of Vineyard City can

appeal this URA decision. Do you know anyone who lives in Vineyard

City? I think this decision should be appealed.

Also, there is proposed legislation this session rolling back the

URA/CDA approval process from 2/3 majority to a simple majority. This

bill would result in even more unfair situations similar to the Geneva

property. ASD would be forced to participate in more URAs at the

additional cost burden to the average resident. I would recommend you

contact your legislators to oppose this legislation. They need to

understand the current situation in which you can be taxed without

your consent and without an appeals process.

To me this is a case of government redistributing your tax dollars.

ASD, or rather you and I and our schools, will be on the hook for many

of the 'tax breaks' over this period of time. My question to you is

"Will it be worth it?"

*Sen. Curt Bramble, a proponent of this project, authored legislation

that changed how CDA's and URA's operated. For the most part, I agree

with the legislation. It changed the approval process from a simple

majority to a 2/3 majority and gave the school districts more autonomy

and say. It also greatly limited the definition of a blighted area.

In the past, a broken fence or a dead tree limb could be construed as

blight. For a URA, all taxing entities must participate. For a CDA,

taxing entities must opt in to participate (Rep. John Dougall's

legislation); they are excluded by default from CDA projects. What I

disagree with is additional legislation (Bramble) setting the base tax

year for this particular project to 2006 (one year after the site was





About the Vineyard URA, or tax benefit to develop the old Geneva

property, the short answer to your questions is that we got skunked.

The Board and the District agreed that the demands were too stiff, and

both sides were maneuvering for the best terms. We worked with a

committee from Utah County, the town of Geneva, Alpine School

District, the Utah State Office of Education, a representative of all

other taxing entities such as the water district, and an at-large

member. Three votes would stop it, and we felt confident that ASD and

the USOE member held a strong hand.

Oops. They called a vote, the USOE voted in favor, and it was suddenly

all over.

The longer answer, although not very technical, is that the developer

needed tax breaks to be able to accomplish the massive clean-up and

build the ambitious commercial/residential design sitting on the

drawing board. The proposal was exciting and attractive, but the

concessions asked were pretty generous. In particular Alpine School

District was resisting the unheard of length of time, 40 years, and

the residential component, where property taxes from the 2300 housing

units projected would be reinvested with the development while the

district would still be required to educate the children from those


The third problem was the roll-back, or using the tax base from 2006,

before the power plant was built, when the property was worth

considerably less. Representative Curt Bramble, Provo, passed a bill

rolling back the tax rate for the property, which had the effect of

raising the tax rate on the entire district. Now that the

redevelopment is moving forward, watch for your next tax bill to

reflect a $15-17 increase for the average household for a private

developer to make big money improving the town of Geneva with your tax


Anderson Development had scaled back to 35 years (that’s still two

generations of school children) and was preparing other mitigations

when the bargaining was suddenly all over. While this is certainly

political, it seems that each party was doing his job in representing

the interests of those they worked with. We will all enjoy driving

along I-15 and seeing a charming little development in place of

blight. But I do not understand the roll-back, nor the USOE abandoning


I wrote earlier about seeing two columns, one for what we get and one

for what we give. The money guys have done this, and the conservative

estimate is that this deal will immediately cost ASD $30 million. Boo,




Developers frequently ask school districts to assist in the

redevelopment of land. The developer typically asks the school

district to provide property tax rebates to the developer's project,

which decreases the costs of the project, making it more economically

feasible (or profitable). The justification given for the tax rebate

is that the project will generate more tax revenue in the future for

the school district, so the school district should "invest" in the

project by giving the developer a tax rebate.

Possibly the largest such tax rebate in the history of Utah ($300

million) has recently been requested from Alpine School District by

Anderson Development through the town of Vineyard for the proposed

redevelopment of the old Geneva Steel site. Based on my read of the

Utah Taxpayers Association's review of the request, I believe the

Alpine School Board should support approximately half of the proposed

$300 million rebate through a redevelopment agency (or "RDA"), but the

second half is not justified and should be rejected by the Alpine

School Board.

When evaluating a proposed redevelopment project, school boards should

ask two questions. First, does the land have negative value? That is,

would a developer have to pay someone to transfer ownership in the

property? If the answer to that question is, "Yes," then an RDA may be


The second question is this: if the RDA is not approved, will the

transactions on the redeveloped site take place in the greater

community? If the answer to this question is, "No," an RDA can also be

appropriate. Unlike most RDAs, the Geneva RDA has elements relating to

both questions.

The former Geneva site is riddled with useless infrastructure, from

deep concrete bunkers to tainted dirt. These relics of the steel plant

have imposed negative value on the property. Based on Anderson

Development's projections, about $150 million worth of the

improvements contemplated in this RDA are necessary to bring the site

to a condition comparable to other greenfield sites. That much of the

proposed RDA is appropriate, and should be approved. Without such

approval, the land could remain any eyesore for generations to come,

and harm the economic development of Utah County.

But Anderson Development is apparently not content with that level of

taxpayer investment. They want the Alpine School Board and other

taxing entities to grant another $150 million in taxpayer subsidies

for their project. This additional investment by the taxpayer is not

justified because the transactions contemplated by that investment

will occur in the greater community, whether or not this Geneva RDA is


Over the 40-year term of this RDA, Anderson Development hopes to build

office parks, retail space and housing. Whether labeled as

residential, office space or storefront, all the development

contemplated in this portion of the Geneva RDA is retail. Tax

subsidies do not stimulate retail economic activity; rather, they

rearrange which city reaps the sales taxes associated with the retail


If the Alpine School Board participates in the second $150 million of

the Geneva RDA, the district will get nothing in return. Consumers

won't increase their spending because of the new retail location.

Every transaction in the proposed Geneva RDA will occur somewhere in

the greater community without that subsidy. The transactions may be in

Lehi or Orem, but they will occur. In other words, if the Alpine

School Board approves the second $150 million request, they will

essentially be shifting millions of dollars from existing cities and

businesses in the Alpine School District to the city of Vineyard and

Anderson Development. So, while this request clearly makes sense for

both Vineyard and Anderson Development, it does not make sense for all

the other cities and businesses in the district.

The plight of the Cottonwood Mall illustrates the folly of retail RDAs

like the second half of the Geneva RDA. Almost two years ago, the

Granite School Board approved an RDA to subsidize the redevelopment of

the Cottonwood Mall. The Cottonwood Mall proposal would have used

nearly $100 million over 20 years to facilitate retail, office space

and residential units.

Although the subsidies were approved, no redevelopment of the

Cottonwood Mall has taken place. The reason for the failure is simple:

tax subsidies do not change the amount of consumer spending. They

merely move an economic transaction from one place to another. They

spur no new economic activity.

In summary, the Alpine School Board should separate the proposed

Geneva RDA into two $150 million pieces. The piece that eliminates the

site's negative value is appropriate, and the Alpine School Board

should participate. The second piece, which subsidizes economic

activity that would happen without the subsidy, is inappropriate, and

the School Board should reject it.

• Joel Wright, of Cedar Hills, is an attorney.

EXHIBIT SEVEN - blog post from Oak Norton:


KUDOS to ASD’s Board

January 26th, 2011

To the Alpine School District Board,

I know we periodically find ourselves at odds but I am very pleased to

find us on the same side in the issue of the Vineyard Urban

Redevelopment Agency. I understand that in the recent vote, your

position was outvoted by others who would financially benefit by the

arrangement. I also understand that taxpayers within the school

district will be on the hook for a couple hundred million dollars over

the next 35 years. This is the classic case of democratic majority

rule where 2 wolves and a sheep vote on what to have for dinner. The

rest of the committee appears to benefit by saddling the rest of the

district taxpayers with their development. I was quite surprised to

hear that the representative from the state office of education didn’t

vote with the school district. That seems quite odd and opens up

questions into how they arrived at their position.

Short of a successful legal challenge, there may not be a lot that can

be done to prevent this injustice. However, I would like to suggest

something for your consideration.

Vineyard voted to pass their hundreds of millions of dollars of

development costs and developer tax breaks on to the school district

taxpayers’ while we continue to pay for their children to be educated.

It seems appropriate to return the favor and publicly announce that at

your next board meeting you will be discussing the possibility of

splitting Vineyard off as a separate school district. This doesn’t

have to be a serious consideration, just a warning shot across the bow

that help Vineyard realize they’re affecting the lives of many

citizens outside their town. Taxation without proportional

representation has a downside when others choose to dissociate

themselves from them.

The County may have *some* limited responsibility to clean up the site

but giving massive tax breaks to the developer after that is entirely


Taxpayers aren’t going to be excited about cleaning up Vineyard,

giving massive tax breaks to a developer, and paying for a brand new

bond in ASD. Thank you for standing for fiscal responsibility and not

taking important future revenue from the ASD.


Oak Norton, Utah’s Republic