School districts respond to rising costs, funding challenges

Published: Saturday, June 22 2013 11:53 p.m. MDT

Davis School District district spokesman Chris Williams said the tentative 2013-14 budget approved by the school board does not call for a tax increase. The budget funds steps and lanes for teachers as well as a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for classified employees and a 1.5 percent salary increase for administrative personnel.

T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Most of the state's school boards have now approved budgets for the 2013-14 school year.

Tax increases have largely been avoided, but a combination of rising employee costs and decreases in federal funding have caused several districts to enact cuts by eliminating staff positions, imposing furloughs or reducing services.

The Utah Legislature funded a 2 percent increase in per-pupil funding during the most recent legislative session, but in most districts those additional state dollars were absorbed by the rising cost of retirement obligations for employees.

Here's a look at most of the districts along the Wasatch Front:

Alpine School District

The school board voted 5-2 to approve a $589 million budget that includes funding for regularly scheduled salary increases, commonly known as steps and lanes, a 1 percent cost of living increase and a one-time 1 percent payment for eligible employees, Alpine School District spokesman John Patten said.

The budget adds two additional days of professional development and 10 full-time teaching positions to reduce class sizes in the district.

A truth-in-taxation hearing will be held for the approved budget, but Patten said because the approved tax rate is lower than the current rate, many property owners will see a decrease in property taxes charged by the district.

Canyons School District

The school board on Tuesday approved a budget that funds steps and lanes, as well as a 0.5 percent cost of living adjustment for certified and administrative employees.

The budget does not include any significant departmental cuts.

"We had the federal sequestration, same as everyone else," district spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook said. "But we're filling in the holes as best as we can."

Davis School District

District spokesman Chris Williams said the tentative 2013-14 budget approved by the school board does not call for a tax increase. The budget funds steps and lanes for teachers as well as a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for classified employees and a 1.5 percent salary increase for administrative personnel.

While the budget does not impose departmental cuts, all district employees are required to take a one-day furlough during the academic year.

"We don't want to impact kids necessarily, so it's not a classroom day, it's a professional day," Williams said.

Williams also said there is potential that full-time positions vacated by employees who retire or leave for other reasons could be transitioned into part-time positions as a cost-saving measure.

Granite School District

The tentative budget approved by the Granite School Board does not call for a tax increase and includes a 0.33 percent cost of living adjustment for employees in addition to funding steps and lanes, according to district spokesman Ben Horsley.

Horsley said the board was facing a $500,000 deficit, which is recouped in the budget through the elimination of several district-level positions.

"That was done through retirement and attrition so nobody was laid off," he said. "The emphasis and the intent of the board was to hold the classroom harmless, and this budget does that."

Jordan School District

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