The Nebo Board of Education is giving taxpayers the opportunity to decide Nov. 6 whether to increase property tax rates 2 mills to pay for class size reduction in the district.
Most school districts in the state took advantage of the levy authorized by the Utah Legislature during its 1990 session by shifting tax rates around. However, six of Utah's 40 school districts, including Nebo, are putting the issue to a vote."We wish we had the money right now, but we think we did the right thing (letting taxpayers vote on the increase)," said Nebo School Board president Collin Allan. "When you raise taxes, the people should have the right to express their opinion."
The district will raise $424,000 from the 2-mill levy, which the state will match almost dollar for dollar for a total of $847,000.
The increase amounts to a cost of about $26.40 a year per household, said the Nebo Education Association. The bill passed by the Legislature allows the money to beused only for class size reduction.
"The biggest concern or question we get is, `Where will the money go?' " said Jack Leifson, public relations specialist. "It seems straightforward to us - the money must be used strictly for class size reduction. By law we couldn't do anything else with it."
The mill levy - about the price of 20 gallons of gas or two compact discs - will allow the district to reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through fifth grade from 28 students to 26 students in the first year. That will be accomplished by hiring the equivalent of 17.5 new full-time teachers and building four to five portable classrooms, Leifson said.
The Nebo District has 16,300 students but only two empty classrooms. In the second year, money will be used to reduce classes in grades eight through 12.
"If people are concerned about class size, then this is a great chance to almost double our money and do something about it," Superintendent Denis Poulsen said.
The Nebo District is one of the most crowded districts in the nation, Leifson said. The district has about 30 students in each class; the average class size in Utah in 1988-89 was 25.4, according to the state Office of Education. Nationally, the average class size is 17.5.
The most current figures available from the state Office of Education for property valuations and per-pupil expenditures are from the 1988-89 and 1989-90 years, said Jay M. Jeffery, director of finance.
The Nebo District had the fifth-lowest property valuation per pupil of all the districts in Utah in 1989-90. Nebo had the third-lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state in 1988-89, Jeffery said, at $2,300 per student.
A 1-mill property tax increase in Nebo raises $14 per student, while a 1 mill increase in the Provo School District raises $19 per student and $49 in the Salt Lake District. The Alpine District raises only $11 per student per mill.
The Nebo Board of Education, Nebo Education Association, Nebo Classified Employees and Parent-Teacher Association are in favor of the leeway. Leifson said he is unaware of any organized opposition.
The Nebo District passed a general leeway bond four years ago, Leifson said. The district used the money to maintain funding and staffing levels when Gov. Norm Bangerter's 1987 budget provided no increases for education.