The Alpine School District Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night opposing the three tax limitation initiatives.
Several hundred students, parents and teachers attended the meeting at Orem Junior High, where John Memmott, a representative from Taxpayers for Utah, showed a short video and gave a presentation on the three propositions.The proposals, which will appear on the general election ballot in November, call for a tax rollback, a limitation on property taxes, and a tuition tax credit for parents with children attending private schools. Combined, the proposals would cut $349 million from government budgets statewide. However, educators are worried because much of that money will be taken from education.
Memmott quoted a recent Dan Jones poll that indicated 57 percent of those questioned would vote for the three initiatives. However, 59 percent of those approached indicated an interest in increasing funding for state education. "What that shows," said Memmott, "is a deep commitment to education. But for some reason, people don't see a correlation between their taxes and state funding for education."
However, said Memmott, "when you talk taxes in Utah, you're talking education." Almost two-thirds of the state's operating budget goes to public and higher education - the highest percentage in the nation, Memmott said.
Comparing Utah to other states that have passed similar resolutions or to states that spend less on education is useless, said Memmott. Other states' populations differ from Utah's. "Currently, for children 5 years old and younger and for children in public schools (6-17 years old), Utah is ranked number one," Memmott said. However, the state's percentage of working-age people (18-64) is lower than any other in the nation.
"That means that you've got fewer people working to pay for the education of our children and young people," Memmott said.
But the news isn't all negative. "All those kids are growing up," Memmott said. Utah now has the fastest-growing work force in the United States. "That's our greatest asset. Businesses are attracted to Utah because we have a growing work force, an educated work force."
The question this November will be whether or not Utahns are willing to invest in that asset, Memmott said.
"If we don't invest in education, our young people will be forced to go somewhere else for their education. Then they will be forced to go somewhere else to get jobs."
The school board, apparently convinced by Memmott's presentation and its own research, passed a resolution stating that the proposed budget cuts would impair the district's ability to provide quality education and therefore, "the Board of Education will work to educate patrons as to the devastating effects of the tax limitation initiatives and will work to their defeat."
Alpine Superintendent Steven C. Baugh estimated that if the initiatives are passed, it would mean an approximate $10 million budget cut for the district. "That's 12 to 15 percent of our maintenance and operation budget," he said. "It would be devastating.
In order to meet the budget cuts, Baugh said programs like kindergarten, adult high school education and career ladder incentives could be eliminated. "I'm in favor of cutting taxes," said Baugh. "But the tax reforms as defined by these initiatives are too deep, too drastic and too soon."