This summer, the Granite Board of Education shifted money from capital outlay, debt service and other budget categories to hire additional teachers for the current school year. The object was to reduce class sizes by adding personnel where needs were most pressing.
However, the money shifted from other budgets, including building upkeep, must be left in those budgets next year. School officials are asking district taxpayers to support a 2-mill property tax increase to raise more than $2 million to continue class-size reduction efforts.The 2 mills actually would add $1.5 million to district coffers, but a state contribution of $900,000 would increase the value to more than $2 million, said Superintendent Loren G. Burton. The state has guaranteed $20-per-student return on the district effort, and Granite's assessed valuation would not generate that amount. The levy would raise Granite's voted leeway taxes to 9 mills of a possible 10 allowed by state law.
"I feel extremely positive that parents of the district will support what's good for the children," Burton said.
The board had the option of passing the 2-mill levy without a taxpayer vote under provisions of legislation passed in February. However, Burton said, board members felt it would be preferable to have voter support, so they put the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot. If voters do not support the measure, he said, it is unlikely the board will exercise its authority to pass the mills, and the district will have no extra money to put into class-size reduction.
The 1990 legislation provided that taxpayers, by gathering the signatures of 10 percent of the district's voters on petitions, could demand a vote. The Utah Taxpayer Association recently surveyed its membership in the district and found that 53 percent do not support the tax levy.
The Granite Education Association supports the 2-mill levy. The cost to taxpayers is small, said GEA President Allen Rasmussen.
On a home with assessed value of $70,000, the additional tax would be $16.80 annually.
"Are the children worth $1.40 per month?" Rasmussen asked. "Most people waste more than that in a month."
He noted that Utah is ranked last in the nation regarding class sizes. "As school-age population in other parts of the country declines, they are able to lower class sizes. But in the Beehive State, school enrollments have been steadily increasing. This puts a greater financial burden on Utah to keep pace with other states," he said.
Methods of classroom instruction are changing so that large classes are no longer feasible, Rasmussen said.
PTA leadership in the district also has approved the tax increase.
Burton said that income from the 2-mill increase would not substantially affect class sizes but would allow the district to hire more teaching personnel to try to trim classes particularly in the primary grades.
Granite District suffered a financial loss this year when the Legislature changed the method of funding retirement and insurance programs. Faced with necessary budget trims this summer, the board cut special education, elementary busing, elementary music, swimming-pool operations, library/media programs and alternative school programs. The cutbacks left little "wiggle room" in budgets for addressing overloaded classes.
The 2-mill levy being sought Nov. 6 would not address the 1990-91 budget pinch but would help the district to try to alleviate overburdened classes, an objective that is considered a district priority, Burton said.