Most homeowners will pay more in property tax to the Tooele County School District when tax bills are due in November.
The Tooele County School Board voted unanimously after a Truth in Taxation hearing Tuesday night to raise more funds for capital projects by keeping its 2013 certified tax rate of .009593 instead of approving the lower 2014 certified tax rate of .009233.
As a result, the owner of the average $170,000 home in the county will pay an additional $33.66 to the school district.
“This is part of our master facilities and capital management plan,” said Scott Rogers, Tooele County School District superintendent.
The $1.08 million in additional revenue generated by the higher tax rate will help replace capital revenue the district lost when the state reduced its capital allocation to the district from $5.3 million in 2008 to the current allocation of $430,000.
The extra revenue will be used to maintain current facilities and slowly create a capital reserve fund to reduce the amount the school district needs to bond for when a new building is needed, according to Rogers.
The vote to keep the higher tax rate followed a public hearing where the board heard from both opponents and proponents to the district’s plan.
“Since 2011 my property tax has increased by $1,200,” said Allan Greenland of Stansbury Park. “I don’t mind paying my fair share, but there’s a limit. That limit is right now. This is not realistic. It is not sustainable. The increase is ridiculous. Go back to the board, sharpen your pencils and make a better plan.”
Stansbury resident Wade Hadlock also opposed the tax increase.
“You are increasing taxes and you have been asleep at the wheel,” he said. “Stansbury Park is underserved. You are not building the schools we need. Do not vote to increase taxes.”
But Melanie Hammer of Tooele City spoke in favor of keeping the higher tax rate.
“No one likes taxes being raised,” she said. “You are appropriately preparing for the future. Keep to your plan and keep the tax rate level.”
Toby Lee of Tooele City also supported the higher tax rate.
“I commend you on your plan.” he said. “Nobody likes taxes to go up, but you need to replace a revenue stream that dried up. You have a fantastic plan. I encourage you to pass this.”
Larry Shumway, a Stansbury Park resident, former Utah State Superintendent of Public Schools, and a former superintendent of Tooele County School District, came to the podium to give his support to the higher tax rate.
“You have the lowest administrative costs in the state,” he said. “You use cost-effective construction. Your money goes to the classroom. With a flat tax rate the public will have a predictable tax bill. The rate is a reasonable way to replace lost funds from the state. I encourage the board to vote in favor of this tax rate.”
With the tax rate now set, district officials will concentrate next on the financial part of their long range plan.
The district has scheduled a vote on a $19.5 million general obligation bond in this fall’s general election. The new general obligation bond, if approved by voters, will replace the school district’s high interest long-term debt with low interest voter approved general obligation bonds.
Once the new general obligation bonds are approved, the capital part of the school district’s tax levy will be reduced, so the new bond will not result in an additional tax increase, according to Rogers.
“We sharpened our pencils last year when we went through the process of reviewing budgets department by department and made reductions,” he said. “Now we need this consistent stream of income to take care of our facilities and prepare us for future needs.”
The lower certified tax rate would have yielded the same amount of property tax revenue for the district in 2014 as it collected in 2013, not including revenue from new growth.