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Website shines light on alternatives to the voted leeway

Article Date: 
12 April, 2013 (All day)

Morgan County School Board members, teachers and residents are talking about a website created by Morgan community members that voices opposition to the voted leeway that will come before voters on June 25.
The website at www.morgancountynovotedleeway.com had over 2,000 hits in three days since going live Monday morning at 8:30 a.m., according to Kera Birkeland, one of the website’s creators.
The website provides an alternative point of view on a variety of points asserted in the district’s presentation on the voted leeway.  These include per pupil expenditures, student-to-teacher ratio, as well as Census information such as per capita income, poverty level and graduation rate.  Birkeland provides links to sources cited on the website.
The site emphasizes that the district is over $30 million in debt.  Increasing taxes on businesses will not help spur economic development the district needs long-term to increase the tax base, according to the website. “Any way you look at it, tax increases hurt business and we all agree that business growth is the only real long-term solution,” according to the website.  “Increasing property taxes hinders business development.” 
The site also offers alternatives to the voted leeway including refinancing bonds and increasing a board leeway.  
“I am grateful that a venue was presented so any community member to review and make their own decisions,” said Pamela Smith, a resident who has seen the website.  “They have backed every site with credible sources that are available, but sometimes difficult to find” from sources such as the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah Tax Payers Association.
The website says, “It has come to our attention that some teachers feel that a vote against the leeway is a vote in favor of firing three teachers. It should be very clear that not one single person who contributes to this website feels this way. We don’t believe that three teachers should be cut.  There are other things to cut first if cuts are to be made. As we see it, it is unfortunate that the teachers are being used as pawns on the chopping block.”
“The saddest part of this issue is that teachers are being threatened with their jobs.  If education is truly the top goal of Morgan School District, teachers should not be the first to be placed on the chopping block,” Smith said.  “With every tax raise I’ve ever seen, teachers are used as pawns to forward unaccountable spending.  This pits them against parents in the community who want to have the best education for their children, but are told teachers will not be able to keep their jobs unless taxes are raised.” 
Birkeland indicated that they will continue adding to the website if they come across new information. “We will be honest and make corrections if we need to,” she said.  
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Ken Adams shared that he had updated the census data he originally included on the district slide presentation.
“The presentation has been changed.  I am happy to change it.  I had no idea they updated that thing.  As soon as I got it, I went back and fixed those things,” Adams said.  “There is no way on earth I have any intentions of deceiving the public.  I have no intention of presenting false information.”
Board President Bruce Galbraith said the presentation is a fluid one that will change as the district gets updates.
“Hundreds of hours have been put into that presentation.  It changes on every presentation as the information gets better,” Galbraith said at Tuesday’s meeting.  “Our intention is to be transparent without appearing to hide anything.  As far as looking at some website, if it’s not presented in a public manner, to me it is just gossip.” 
“The reason behind the website is because of the backlash people receive when speaking against anything to do with schools,” said Birkeland.  “A public meeting is not an atmosphere conducive to hear an opposing opinion.  The best way to do it in a peaceful manner is online.”
Standing behind her website, Birkeland stated that is not her job to correct the school board or State Office of Education. She continued saying she is just a concerned citizen trying to make sure the public has all the information needed to make an educated decision. “People can make up their own minds,” she said.