Salt Lake School District: Status Quo Will Take a Tax Increase

Education • Officials say money is needed for programs, employee raises and retirees.



PUBLISHED: MAY 10, 2013 09:52PM
UPDATED: MAY 10, 2013 11:02PM

Salt Lake City School District officials are recommending a property tax increase to maintain school programs and provide a cost-of-living increase to employees.

Under the proposal, homeowners would pay $12.65 more per $100,000 of home valuation yearly, raising an additional $3.6 million for the 2013-14 school year, said Janet Roberts, district business administrator.

The single-family home median price in Salt Lake City ranged from $139,000 in the 84101 ZIP code to $393,000 in 84103 in the first quarter of 2013, according to Urban Utah Homes and Estates, a real estate company.

Roberts presented the initial budget for the next school year to school board members on Tuesday, and gave them more detailed data on Friday.

The $3.6 million generated from the proposed property tax increase would cover $1.9 million needed to support current academic programs; $1.2 million for state retirement and cost-of-living increases for employees; and $450,000 to cover federal budget cutbacks.

Even though school districts received a 2 percent boost to per-student funding in the recent legislative session, Salt Lake City School District must divert almost all of that money toward a 21.9 percent increase in retirement costs for new and existing retirees compared to last year.

School board members said they will take a closer look at the proposed budget and discuss it at upcoming meetings. This week’s board meeting was the first time the proposed budget had been publicly discussed.

Board member Michael Clara wanted to know whether administrators had considered closing schools.

“There are a couple of elementary schools at half enrollment,” Clara said. “Is there a tipping point for looking at closing schools?”

Board member Rosemary Emery said, “Personally, I think we’re going to have to have a tax increase.”

She recommended talking about technology when pitching increased taxes because “technology is lopsided from school to school.” She suggested creating a special fund restricted to school technology expenses.

But board member Douglas Nelson warned against promising anything about the budget, especially since decisions by state lawmakers have such an impact on school budgets.

Here’s how the district’s money is spent: 88 percent goes toward employee salaries and benefits, including retirement; 8 percent to textbooks, supplies and equipment; 3 percent to utilities; and 1 percent for purchasing services.

Superintendent McKell Withers told the school board that the structure of state funding benefits growing districts, but districts with flat enrollment, such as Salt Lake, can be left with budgetary holes.

Twitter: @rayutah

Public budget meetings

The Salt Lake City School District will consider increasing property taxes for the 2013-14 budget. Here are the upcoming public meetings, which are held at the district offices at 440 E. 100 South.

May 21 School board reviews the budget proposal.

June 4 School board expected to vote on the district budget as well as approval of the 2013 tax rate.

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