Voters in Jordan rejected a $39.5 million public schools referendum Tuesday, putting the administration in a tough spot between maintaining current educational offerings and balancing the district’s budget.
“It’s unfortunate,” Superintendent Matt Helgerson said Tuesday night. “We have to reduce our budget and we’ll be facing tough decisions for the next couple months to prepare for next year’s budget. We will be cutting. In terms of buildings and infrastructure there will continue to be challenges.”
Voters rejected the request to raise the per-student operating levy from $724 to $1,024, along with two bonding measures to improve and expand district facilities. The levy measure failed with 55% of voters opposed. The $24.5 bonding measure only garnered 36% support and 75% of voters rejected the $15 million bonding measure.
About 1,888 votes were cast in total. On Election Day morning, volunteers at the polls noted that turnout was lower than usual but steady.
“We appreciate every voter that took the time to become informed, whether it was by reading information on our website or attending a public meeting,” Helgerson said. “If people educate themselves, whether they vote yes or no, that’s all you can ask for.”
On Election Day, voters were asked to make decisions on three questions that would determine the future of Jordan Public Schools in terms of educational offerings, facility quality, building locations and pick-up and drop-off delays.
The first question asked voters to raise the per-student operational levy by $300. Failure of that measure meant funding would not be possible for the rest of the proposed projects, essentially tanking the entire referendum in one vote.
In addition to providing operating dollars for proposed projects, district officials said a levy increase would have kept elementary class sizes down, expand and improve elective offerings at the middle and high schools and help retain and attract quality employees. The second question asked voters to approve a $24.5 million bond that would have funded four large projects: the construction of an early learning services building, elementary school renovations, a high school remodel and improved parking and drives. The third question asked voters to approve a $15 million bond that would have funded two large projects: the expansion and improvement of the high school auditorium and the construction of a multipurpose field house on the “south campus.”
District officials expect the failure of the levy proposal to directly impact school programming by causing elementary and high school class sizes to increase while activities, athletics and elective offerings will shrink. The district also expects to lose staff to competitive districts.
Parents who drive their students to school will be affected daily, as pick-up and drop-off congestion will continue to grind morning commutes to a halt, particularly in poor weather conditions. Auditorium seating, elementary quarters and early learning services rooms will remain cramped without the proposed construction and remodel projects.
But for many voters, remedying those issues was not worth the substantial tax impact. Feedback from voters leaving the polls Tuesday morning was largely negative and tax related.
Leading up to the vote, district officials indicated that if the referendum failed another will be pursued in the future, while also noting that construction costs will continue to rise by 3-5% annually.
Voters also elected Ryan Dahnert to the ISD 717 school board. Earlier this year Dahnert was appointed by the school board to fill a seat vacated by Jesse Erdal, who stepped down in June before moving out of state. Following Tuesday’s vote, Dahnert will serve the remainder of the term.