Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

September 19, 2017
Open houses for local levy for teacher pay see low turnout

School district holding meetings to explain request for voters to approve a .001 increase in local school levy 

Slim to none, that’s how many people have showed up so far for Tooele County School District’s open houses about the voted local levy.

The school board has asked voters to approve an increase in the portion of the overall property tax rate collected for schools in Tooele County, which is called the voted local levy. That vote will beheld on Nov. 7, 2017.

The school district held an open house at Tooele High School on Thursday to explain the rationale and impact of the increased tax rate, but nobody attended.

Monday night, one person showed up for the open house held at Grantsville High School.

Another open house is scheduled for Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. at Stansbury High School.

Currently set at .000600 by voters in 1998, the school board is seeking authorization from voters to raise the local voted levy to .001600 for the 2018 property tax year.

The state currently matches the revenue collected from the voted local levy to the tune of 92 cents for every dollar collected, according to Lark Reynolds, Tooele County School District business administrator.

The state does not match revenue collected over the .001600 rate, according to Reynolds.

“We are essentially leaving state money on the table,” he said.

Based on 2017 property values, the proposed increase in the property tax rate would generate an additional $4,040,047 in local property tax revenue. It would also bring in an additional $3,708,892 in state funds, according to Reynolds.

For homeowners the impact of the voted local levy increase would mean an extra 55 cents in property tax per $1,000 of market value, because the taxable value of a primary residence is 55 percent of the market value.

For the owner of a $200,000 home that would be a $100 annual increase in property tax or $9.16 per month.

In 2017, the school board dropped the combined property tax rate for schools in Tooele County from .009523 to the certified rate of .009122, according to Reynolds.

The school district won’t know what its proposed combined property tax rate for 2018 will be until June 2018. That’s when the school district will know the property values and certified tax rate for 2018, Reynolds said.

The entire $7.7 million collected from the increased property tax rate, and the associated state matching funds, will be used to increase employee compensation, according to Doelene Pitt, Tooele County School District assistant superintendent.

The total salary and benefits for classroom teachers in Tooele County ranked at the bottom of Utah’s 41 school districts in 2015, according to the state superintendent’s annual report.

Faced with a statewide teacher shortage, the Tooele County School Board invested its entire increase in per pupil funding allotted by the state Legislature to bump teacher salaries up by $3,800, making the annual starting salary for a new teacher $37,000 for the 2017 school year.

That figure is still at the bottom of pay offered for first year teachers in comparable school districts across the state, according to data collected by the school district in preparation for salary negotiations.

In 2017 the starting salary for a new teacher in Salt Lake City School District was $43,886. Granite School District offered new teachers $41,000. Jordan School District offered new teachers $40,000.

And it’s not just new teachers that are being paid more.

The highest annual salary for a teacher in Tooele County was $65,606. The highest annual salary in the Salt Lake City School District was $82,392, according to information handed out at the open house by Pitt.

“It’s hard to keep teachers when they can drive 30 miles and get more money,” she said.

The Tooele County School District lost 42 teachers to other school districts last year, according to Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers.

Some of those teachers left during the school year, and others left just before school started, leaving the school district short 13 teachers, he said.

“It used to be that superintendents had kind of a gentlemen’s agreement that we didn’t poach teachers from other districts,” Rogers said. “But because of the teacher shortage, it’s gloves off now when it comes to recruiting teachers.”

The proposed Tooele County School District 2017-18 salary schedule shows the starting teacher salary at $40,000, with veteran teachers receiving a corresponding increase.

The proposed salary schedule for support professionals, such as teacher aides, lunch staff, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, tech support, and other non-teaching staff, also shows an increase in salary.

“It’s getting harder to find and keep people for some of these positions as well,” Rogers said.

Grantsville and Tooele City voters will vote on the increased voted local levy at their regular polling place along with their city election on Nov. 7.

The county will send ballots by mail to other registered voters 21 days before the election, according to Rogers.

Stansbury High School, the location of the next town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, is located at 5300 Aberdeen Lane in Stansbury Park.

Information on the voted levy can also be found at www.tooeleschools.org/apps/pages/VOTEDLEVY.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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