South Sanpete School District watching education-related legislation very carefully
By Lloyd Call
EPHRAIM—“The legislature giveth, and the legislature may taketh away,” said South Sanpete School District superintendent Ralph Squire as last week’s board meeting last Wednesday. He was referring to the glowing report from the legislature about supporting education with a 6-percent increase in the weighed-pupil unit, (NOT 6% on our total budget) the basic measure for determining funding to public schools. It takes 2% increase on the WPU just to stay even year to year.
The Utah Legislature did indeed pass the bill on the increase. “Six-percent is more than the 4-percent we got last year, but as the session progressed, we didn’t end up with that 4-percent, it was cut in half. Our school district actually got about a $1/2 million less last year (from below the line items cut) than the year before, and it can still happen again this year, so we are reserving our approbation until we see what schools will actually get,” Squire said.
“As Utah superintendents attend legislative meetings, we are notified whenever a bill comes up concerning education. We sift through the bills and rate bills as “Good” meaning we support them, “Maybe” meaning we aren’t quite sure if it’s good for education, or “Bad” for legislature that will hurt public schools.”
Bills ranked “Good” are:
HB93: Youth suicide prevention program amendments—Requires school districts to ensure coordination between youth suicide prevention programs and other prevention programs.
HB182: Educator hearing amendments—Allows Utah State Board of Education hearing on dismissal of a district employee to be appealed for Court of Appeals.
HB222: School land trust program amendments—Repeals requirement for a principal to post certain information on the school’s website.
SB44: Payment in lieu of taxes funds for counties—Creates base distribution level of payments in lieu of tax on federal entitlement lands.
SB118: State school board candidate amendments—Reduces number of signatures needed for an individual to appear on regular primary ballot for qualified political party.
Bills ranked “Maybe” are:
SB1 Substitute: Public education base budget amendments—Superintendents want language changed for more flexibility with CARES funding.
SB52: Property tax deferral modification—Requires county to grant property tax deferral to owner of single-family residence who is 66 years or older and whose value is under $500,000.
SB115: Retirement system transparency requirements—Requires certain employers that participate in the Utah Retirement System do disclose compensation information on state website.
Bills ranked “Bad” are:
SB18 Substitute: Property tax exemption amendments—Superintendents believe both counties and schools will lose money with this bill.
SB65: Community reinvestment agency amendments—Bill amends financing for future projects; superintendents say they will lose voice in some matters.
SB131: Public education buildings standards and process—Bill will take away local control in capital building projects.
In the face of COVID-19, last year all the schools in Utah applied for relief funds. “We were advised to say we wanted ventilation improvements, such as heating and air conditioning filtering, but all schools were turned down last year,” said Squire. “This year we are more hopeful about getting our priorities put where they have a chance of being approved.”