If approved, the change could take place as soon as January 1, 2011. The proposal was discussed at the July 21 meeting of the San Juan School Board.
The school district recently sent a survey to parents and voters in the Spanish Valley area. The results show general support for the adjustment, but concern about a number of issues in the Grand School District.
Nearly 140 students from San Juan County currently attend schools in the Grand School District. In fact, San Juan students account for nearly ten percent of the total student body in the Moab-area school district.
The number of students is increasing over time as the Moab area grows and the increasing cost of living in Moab sends young families to adjacent Spanish Valley.
Spanish Valley residents prefer to send their students to school in the Moab area rather than face busing to San Juan schools. There are no San Juan schools in the Spanish Valley area.
The Grand School District has been in a budget crisis since 2009, when a state audit showed that the district had been misallocating funds. The district has struggled to cut expenses and increase revenues without a catstrophic impact on the schools. The Grand District approached the San Juan School District as a result.
A perception among some in Grand County is that the Grand School District was “subsidizing” the education of Spanish Valley students because of the amount of property tax forwarded by the San Juan School District.
The San Juan School District uses a state-determined formula to forward property taxes for each student who attends school in Grand County.
Adjusting the boundary to include Spanish Valley is likely to increase the amount of funds collected by the Grand School District for the Spanish Valley students.
The Grand property tax rate is lower than the San Juan rate at the current time. As a result, adjusting the boundary may decrease the tax bill for Spanish County residents.
The proposal would adjust the school district boundary to include privately-owned property in Spanish Valley. It does not include federal property, state trust lands, or private property outside of Spanish Valley, such as the Pack Creek Ranch.
The adjustment would allow the Spanish Valley community to vote for representation on the Grand School Board.
Property taxes for education would be assessed and collected by San Juan County and forwarded to the Grand School District.
San Juan School officials estimate that making the adjustment will decrease property tax revenues for the district by less than $100,000 per year.
Both school groups agreed to carefully consider the options. After meeting with the San Juan board, Grand School officials discussed the proposals at their July 21 board meeting.
San Juan School officials state that no action will be taken without a full public process.
Officials stress that the boundary adjustment is for the school district only and does not impact any other political entity.
San Juan County has signaled support for the school proposal but has no intention of making any additional change, such as the annexation of Spanish Valley into Grand County.
“We love the residents of Spanish Valley,” said San Juan County Commissioner Lynn Stevens, who added, “There is no political, economic, legal or even social reason for Spanish Valley to be annexed into Grand County.”
In recent years, San Juan County has made increased investments in Spanish Valley, including support for infrastructure development, opening a new health care clinic, and hiring a liaison to coordinate efforts in the fast-growing area.