Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 22, 2022
School board looks at 2023 budget

Adopting a tax rate higher than the certified rate discussed 

Editor’s note: The Tooele County School Board held their public hearing for their 2022-2023 budget on Tuesday night in the boardroom at the school district office at 6 p.m.. This story is from the school’s board’s discussion of their  2022-2023 budget during their June 14 meeting. This will be updated online with information from the board’s budget hearing. 

The Tooele County School District has a proposed 2023 balanced budget with no tax increase.

With the certified property tax rate for 2023, the school district’s budget fo fiscal year 2023 as presented to the school board during their June 14 meeting by business administrator, Lark Reynolds,  is balanced, including salary increases and covering inflationary costs for routine school operations and maintenance.

But whether or not the school district should tap into a large increase in property valuation to cover an anticipated shortfall in funds to construct a new junior high is the question the school board started to discuss that evening.

Keeping the 2022 property tax rate instead of dropping to the 2023 certified tax rate is expected to cause the owner of a $320,000 home to pay $320 more in property tax for schools in 2023 than what the owner of a home of the same value paid in 2022, roughly a 31% increase.

The school board asked Reynolds to bring back a second proposed budget that would reflect half of that increase, $160, for the school board’s June 21 budget hearing.

School board member Scott Bryan looked out into the audience and cautioned, “Just because we’re asking to look at that budget doesn’t mean we have already decided to adopt it. It’s something we want to discuss.”

If the school board decides to seriously consider adopting a property tax higher than the certified tax rate during their June 21 budget hearing, the school board would be required to go through the state’s Truth In Taxation process. That process requires another public hearing after two printed public notices as well as a mailed notice on all taxpayers’ annual Tax Valuation And Tax Change Notice.

The 2023 budget presented by Reynolds to the school board on June 14 called for a $5.2 million increase in the school district’s general fund expenses — the fund that pays for day-to-day operations of school and the ordinary maintenance of facilities.

That would be roughly a 2.7% increase from the 2022 budget. The largest increase is in total salaries, $10.5 million or 11.2% and benefits, $3.6 million or $8.3%.

The school district’s 2023 agreement with their certified staff calls for a $5,000 increase in salary, a $4,000 boost in the annual base pay and a one step advancement on the pay chart for current employees — a $1,000 increase in annual pay.

Decreases in other parts of the 2023 budget, such as a $6.9 million drop in purchased professional and technical services and a $900,000 reduction in other purchased services help offset the increases in salaries and benefits.

The proposed budget includes a rounded $34.8 million from property taxes for 2023, at the certified tax rate.

The certified property rate that generates the same revenue as the prior year, not including property tax from new growth is the certified tax rate . New growth is defined as newly developed property that was not on the previous year’s tax rolls. New growth here does not include increased valuation of property. As property values go up, the certified tax rate goes down.

In 2022, the school district adopted the certified rate and brought in around $5 million more in property tax due to new growth. New growth is estimated to bring in an additional 2.2 million for the school district in 2023, at the certified property tax rate.

If the school district adopts a “flat tax rate,” by keeping the rate at the current 2022 rate and not dropping to the 2023 certified rate, the school district property tax is expected to bring in an additional $11.2 million for the school district.

In seven out of the last nine years, the school district has adopted a property tax rate higher than the certified rate, but this year’s approximately 31% difference between the 2023 certified rate and the 2022 rate is much higher than previous years.

Some school board members wanted to at least look at some kind of increase over the certified rate to bring in revenue to help cover the shortfall for the cost of building a new junior high school.

In 2020, voters approved a bond to build a new elementary school, a new high school, and a new junior high school.

“We gave the voters a good faith estimate of the costs and promised not to raise taxes,” said board member Alan Mourtisen. “But now due to the economic times we have a shortfall.”

In March 2022, school district officials reported that due to inflation driving up costs of building materials and labor, after building the elementary school and the high school, the district would be $55 million short of what is needed for the junior high school.

Board member Scott Bryan said he wanted to at least look and discuss tapping into the increase in valuation to help with some of the shortfall for the junior high.

“Maybe it’s not the full $11.2 million, that might be too much,” he said. “But maybe cutting it in half, $5.6 million. I think I could consider that and I could also be talked out of that.”

Board members Camille Knudson and Melissa Rich also expressed a desire to consider an increase somewhere between the 2022 rate and the 2023 certified rate to help cover the construction shortfall.

 

Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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