Nebo School District is one of the poorest districts in the state and has one of the state's highest teacher-to-pupil ratios.
Nonetheless, district officials say that letting voters decide in November whether to implement the school board leeway is the right decision.Twenty-four of the state's 40 school districts implemented the leeway - some levied less than the allowable 2 mills, and some shifted local funds rather than creating a new levy. Nebo and Weber School District are the only districts placing the issue on November's ballot.
"We wish we had the money now," Nebo School Board President Collin Allan said. "But we think we did the right thing. When you raise taxes, the people should have the right to express their opinion."
District officials say there is no doubt that the district needs the money and hope district voters will understand the benefits the added money could mean. Nebo has the state's second to highest teacher-to-pupil ratio and is last in per pupil spending.
Errol Smith, district finance director, said the leeway, if implemented, would bring the district about $424,000 in taxes and $423,000 in state-matched funds. The 2-mill increase would mean about $28 more per year in property taxes on a $70,000 home.
"If people are concerned about class size then this is a great chance for us to double our money and do something about it," said Larry Kimball, director of secondary education.
Smith said a leeway committee is looking at where the money could best benefit the district if the leeway passes. Smith said he is not aware of any opposition in the districts that implemented the leeway without a vote. However, he said the way in which some districts shifted funds may result in a change in the legislation.
"We've heard rumblings that the intent of the legislation was not followed by other districts and that there will be changes," Smith said.
District officials said waiting a year for possible class-size reduction funds makes it hard for the district to compete with other districts for teachers. But to generate the funds without raising taxes would not be following the intent of legislation.
"When the other districts have the money and are doing things we wish we could be doing it makes it tough on us," Kimball said.
"We just felt that what the other districts did was not being up front and straightforward," Allan said. "We have confidence in our citizens that they will see the value of this levy and will pass it."
If the leeway passes, it is likely that class sizes will first be reduced in elementary grades and then secondary grades. The money can be used to hire teachers or to provide more classroom space.
"It won't do the whole job but it's sure a good place to start," Allan said.
Money for schools
These districts have implemented the 2-mill property tax approved by the Legislature and have received the resulting funding increases:
District Local State
contribution contribution Alpine $796,877 $1,059,986
Provo $294,380 $158,784
Davis $1,362,861 $1,246,539
Granite $2,743,428 $1,017,772
Jordan $2,040,573 $1,031,144
Salt Lake $1,164,966 $0
Nebo* $424,000 $423,000
*If approved. All figures based on State Department of Education estimates.