Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 7, 2012
Give school district’s tax hike a chance

I don’t relish having to pay more taxes than I need to. Every year in April, as our tax deadline looms, I’ve learned to brace myself. Since my husband is a small business owner, our tax bill is nearly impossible to predict. It seems that regardless of how much money we set aside for taxes throughout the year, we still come up short somehow.

“What exactly are we getting for our money?” I grumble as I worry about settling our tax bill.

The Tooele County School District’s proposed tax hike (“School district touts cost-cutting as tax hike looms,” Aug. 2) may not be on the same magnitude as an April tax bill, but it’s a huge concern nonetheless. In these tough economic times, aren’t we all more sensitive to additional tax burdens? When I received our recent property tax notice, like many of my neighbors, I wondered, “Do we really need this school tax hike?”

To use an analogy, my husband and I give each other a small allowance every month, which we can use to buy anything we want, no questions asked. Occasionally, when my balance is precariously low, I ask him if I could get an item of clothing from our shared general account.

His response: Is it a need or a want?

Conversely, are all the items on the school district budget needs or wants? If you want to see for yourself, log onto the school district website,, and look up their proposed 2013 budget. From what I can glean, the numbers seem fairly conservative, though I wish some line items, like supplies or staff training, could be more specific.

If you’re not sure what any of the numbers mean, call Lark Reynolds, the district’s new business manager. He helpfully explained to me what cuts the district has done over the years and pointed out that a shortfall might precipitate further staff cuts.

With some grades already struggling with big class sizes, that prospect is worrisome. Already, certain opportunities might not be available to our children because of school budget cuts.

If — and this is a big “if” — the school district can show that the need is there, then a tax hike may be the only solution. After all, we don’t want to be another California.

A couple of months ago, a relative visiting from California told me he was promoted to principal at his son’s elementary school.

“Congratulations!” I said. “Do you like that better than teaching?”

“In some ways,” he said. “But I have to work long hours. I don’t have an assistant principal.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around that. No assistant principal?

Apparently, California schools are strapped for money, thanks to Proposition 13, which has kept property taxes at 1976 levels unless a home owner sells. Not surprisingly, taxes in the Golden State aren’t keeping up with their student enrollment growth.

Being dead-set against additional taxes sounds good in principle, but is it realistic? As California’s school budget crisis shows, there’s only so much you can cut.

Does this mean our local school district should have free reign to spend however it wants? Of course not. Come to the Truth in Taxation hearing on Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the district office and keep them accountable.

Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and longtime journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at

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