It’s easier than ever before to vote in Tooele County, thanks to Vote By Mail and early voting opportunities before Election Day. Yet, Tooele County’s voter participation numbers for non-presidential election years remain low.
For example, in 2015’s general election, which featured municipal elections, a proposition for roads, and a $49 million bond for schools, only 24 percent of registered county voters cast a ballot. In the 2013 Tooele City municipal election, approximately 18 percent of the city’s registered voters marked a ballot. In Grantsville’s municipal election that same year, the turnout was 30 percent.
For comparison, in last November’s presidential election, 74 percent of registered voters in the county voted. In the 2012 presidential election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, local voter turnout was 73 percent.
Higher voter numbers are vigorously encouraged and hoped for in this year’s election on Nov. 7 because there are important mayoral and council races in Tooele and Grantsville cities, and council races in the towns of Rush Valley and Stockton. There are also important board seats on the ballot for the Stansbury Greenbelt Service Area, the Stansbury Park Recreation Service Area, and the Stansbury Park Improvement District.
But there is another important item on this year’s ballot that all Tooele County voters should consider and cast a vote. It’s Proposition #1, which if passed, will allow the Tooele County School Board to raise the voted local levy to give the school district more money to boost new teacher recruitment efforts and help stop the loss of local teachers leaving for school districts that pay more.
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. If approved, a $200,000 homeowner in the county would pay an extra $9.16 per month in property tax.
Based on 2017 property values, the proposed increase in the property tax rate would generate an additional $4 million for the school district. But because the state currently matches revenue from the voted local levy up to .001600 at 92 cents for every dollar collected, the proposed increase would bring in an additional $3.7 million, according to school district officials.
Those same officials say the entire $7.7 million raised will be used to pay more to teachers and support staff, such as teacher aides, secretaries, custodians and bus drivers. The local school district reportedly lost 42 teachers to other school districts over pay last year, and when school started on Aug. 22, the district was short 13 teachers.
The school district will need to offer more pay to stop losing teachers to better paying districts. For example, the annual starting salary for a new teacher in the county is $37,000. Salt Lake City School District pays new teachers nearly $44,000. Granite School District pays $41,000 and Jordan School District $40,000.
Because of the state’s ongoing teacher shortage and the local school district’s challenges to keep current teachers and attract new recruits, voters are encouraged to pass Proposition #1. The school district and its students can’t afford to lose more good teachers.