The Utah State Auditor had made it easier for taxpayers and parents to find out how public education dollars are spent.
The Office of the State Auditor announced the release of a public education spending dashboard available through a link on the state auditor’s website which started Sept. 11.
The dashboard answer the question, “Where does the money go in public education?” according to John Dougall, Utah state auditor.
“Public education is the single largest component of Utah’s budget,” Dougall said. “In Utah, we value our system of public education, but taxpayers often question where the money went and how well it was spent.”
During fiscal year 2018, Utahns spent more than $6.7 billion on public education, or approximately $10,500 per student, including capital expenses. The dashboard helps the public better understand education spending, where money is being spent and how that has changed over time, according to Dougall.
Tooele County School District spent $9,168 per student in 2018, including capital expenses, according to the dashboard.
Taking out capital expenses — which primarily include facilities acquisition and construction, machinery, technical services, land and site improvements, technology-related hardware, and bond payments — Tooele County School District spent $7,435 per student in 2018 compared to a state average of $8,219 per student.
Average school district spending per student, including capital expenses rose to $10,500 in 2018 from $8,598 in 2014.
In Tooele County School District spending per student rose from $7,826 in 2014 to $10,685 in 2017 before dropping to $9,168 in 2018.
Looking at expenses by function, the bulk of spending is on instruction. Instruction is defined by the Utah State Board of Education accounting regulations as expenses “dealing directly with the interaction between teachers and students.”
It may include co-curricular activities and activities of assistant of aides that assist in the instructional process.”
Statewide 60.3% of school district non-capital spending in 2018 was on instruction. Tooele County School District spent 62% of their 2018 non-capital expenses on instruction in 2018.
Out of 41 school districts, Tooele County School District ranks as the 27th lowest district in percent expenses spent on district administration, according to a report shared with the Tooele County School Board by their business administrator, Lark Reynolds.
Comparisons to other school districts are interesting, but Reynolds cautioned that while all school districts follow the same accounting guidelines local interpretations of those guidelines may differ.
The public education spending dashboard may be found at: auditor.utah.gov/audit_reports/public-education/