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District must hike taxes to keep state equalization funding

 

By Suzanne Dean

Publisher

9/4/2019

 

MT. PLEASANT—Citizens attending a Truth-in-Taxation hearing two weeks ago mostly expressed support or simply sought clarification of a proposal that would increase property tax revenue in the North Sanpete School District.

No one at the hearing Aug. 20 before the North Sanpete School Board opposed the increase.

The school board did not vote on the tax increase the night of the hearing. The vote isn’t scheduled until the school board takes up the whole school district budget, which is expected Sept. 17.

A Truth-in-Taxation notice published in the Sanpete Messenger said that if the school board approves the increase, property tax on a $180,000 house would go from $513.41 currently to $578.46.

The proposed tax increase has two pieces.

First, the school board is proposing to raise what is known as the “voted leeway,” a local-option levy, about 7 percent. The money would go for basic educational costs, such as teachers’ salaries and building maintenance.

Darin Johansen, district business administrator, explained that approval of the increase would not bring more money to the district, but failure to approve it would cost the district about $600,000.

Under the Utah school finance formula, richer districts are required to send some of their tax receipts into the Utah State Office of Education (USOE). Those “equalization” funds are redistributed to poorer districts such as North Sanpete.

The Utah school finance formula also rewards tax effort. If voters in a school district pass a voted leeway, as North Sanpete voters did years ago, the district qualifies for an additional increment of equalization funds.

Johansen explained that voted leeway tax rate can go do