Sevier County taxpayers will trek to the polls Nov. 6 for the second time in two months to decide whether they want to tax themselves for technology computer labs in the schools.
Members of the board of education decided they would to bring up the leeway tax issue for another vote after it was narrowly defeated in the primary election. They believe there were misunderstandings because 600 voters who cast ballots for candidates didn't even vote on the leeway.Board members are making a promise the second time around.
The board has pledged that the leeway tax of .0004 per dollar of taxable value (equivalent to two mills) will be removed after three years if there is not measurable educational improvements in student achievement of at least 10 percent. They say the program has improved student learning in reading, language arts and math in schools where computer labs are in use.
The success of students who use the technology will be based on standardized comprehensive testing in those subjects.
Although members of the board are prohibited by law from campaigning for passage of a leeway tax vote, citizen committees have been organized and have been meeting with school patrons to explain the program, urging they vote for it. Chairmen of those groups in the four attendance areas are Susan Baldwin, South Sevier; Kevin Ashby, North Sevier; Sally Henrie, Richfield; and Toshi Zettlemoyer and Vanya Hampton, Koosharem.
A majority vote will open the way for the district to place 32-station computer labs in the schools, something that Superintendent Brent Rock says is necessary if the district's graduating students are to successfully compete in the work force or achieve their potential in institutions of higher learning after leaving high school.
Some money has been put aside by the state for use in the Sevier District for the technology program and more will be available each year, but it can't be used unless there are matching funds. These will become available over a four-year program if the leeway issue is approved. The district will receive about three dollars in state funding for each dollar in matching funds.
School officials emphasize that the money raised would be designed for the special program and wouldn't be used for salaries or other purposes.
Initially, the district would get a 32-station computer lab along with software for the systems. Koosharem Elementary would get an eight-station lab. Additional computer equipment and software would be purchased in succeeding years.
Some $535,000 will ultimately be needed for four 32-station labs, the Koosharem lab and four aides for the elementary schools. Additional money will be needed for computer maintenance and to operate the program.
The district would get a state technology grant of $192,000 for the 1991-92 school year and there would be additional state funding of $90,000. The leeway tax would raise about $165,000. The following year, $448,000 in funding would be needed. Another $256,000 would be spent in the 1993-94 school year.
The leeway tax would rise $24 on a house with a $100,000 market value and $32 on a $100,000 locally assessed business. It would raise $40 for every $100,000 of utility or personal property.
The superintendent said the program would allow students to work and develop at their own level and speeds, eliminating problems some students suffer because of peer pressures. It would also aid students who have the ability to advance beyond their grade levels.