Voters will decide whether Orem creates its own school district

Aug 2, 2022, 10:54 PM | Updated: 11:04 pm

OREM, Utah — A huge decision in Orem Tuesday night as the City Council voted to let residents decide if they want to create a new school district and break away from Alpine School District.

The special council session came after public meetings that delved into the findings of a feasibility study that the city hired a firm to conduct, to look at the numbers and see what it would cost if Orem stayed in Alpine School District or split off.

Even before the meeting, passion built outside city hall. People stood on the street corner waving signs at drivers, urging the council to bring the issue to voters.

Many echoed the message at the public comment podium inside council chambers.

“For over two decades, residents have begged for their right to vote on this issue,” one woman said.

“I think we need to let the information come out, put it to vote,” said a man wearing a “LET OREM VOTE” sticker on his shirt. “And I’ve studied the feasibility study.”

Mayor Dave Young said the council has twice before studied what it could cost to leave the Alpine School District — once back in 2006 and again in 2017. Both times the council voted not to move forward.

He said the newest study concluded it is feasible for Orem to break away, and found Orem pays more money to the Alpine School District than it gets back.

“Over the last 20 years, Orem has paid out $130 million more into Alpine School District than they had received back,” he said.

And that’s why many residents argued during public comment that the study doesn’t give the full picture, and the city isn’t ready to put this to voters.

“No one’s voice is being taken away if you vote no,” one man urged.

“We need to be very clear about how much it is going to cost residents here in Orem,” said a woman, who said she is currently a para educator. She said the current study doesn’t show how much it’s going to cost to give the same level of education, including in areas like para education.

After nearly two hours of comments, council members weighed in with a split in their thoughts.

“As I stated previously, I would not vote for a split if it raises taxes, and this will,” said council member Tom Macdonald.

“I am convinced an Orem district will allow our children to have the educational opportunities and the funding that they deserve,” said council member LaNae Millet.

After multiple public meetings to go over the findings, months of hearing from constituents, and hundreds of pages reviewed, the council made a decision: Send this to voters and see what happens.

The vote ended up at 4-3, and the question will now be placed on the November ballot.

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Voters will decide whether Orem creates its own school district