The proposed Salt Lake school budget hits taxpayers with a hefty tax hike.
The owner of an $80,000 home would shell out $33.18 more in 1991 property taxes if the Salt Lake Board of Education adopts the district's proposed budget. The budget was presented to the board Tuesday night by Superintendent John W. Bennion and Business Administrator W. Gary Harmer.The district will hold a public hearing on June 4. However, if the board approves the tax hike, it also must hold a truth-in-taxation hearing Aug. 6. The law requires that notices must be mailed to city residents before the August hearing.
The proposed tax hike is the fiscal bottom line after months of board discussions about seismic safety in the schools.
District officials want to rebuild or retrofit the city's 35 schools for earthquake safety, and higher property taxes are the way proposed to finance the 20-year project. The proposed budget would increase the 1991 tax rate by 7.78 percent, going from .007961 to .008580.
The board toyed with the idea of bonding for seismic safety but now seems to favor the pay-as-you-go, higher-taxes plan that would save millions in interest.
Officially, the board hasn't voted on any seismic-safety plan. However, comments from board members indicate that they place great credence in a Dan Jones & Associates poll of 910 city residents. In the March poll, the majority of poll respondents - 64 percent - said they'd favor raising taxes by 1 mill to earthquake proof the schools.
Harmer said the proposed budget would raise taxes by 0.6 mill.
Under the proposed budget, the money would accumulate in the district's building reserve fund for several years before construction begins.
Next year, most of the $6.3 million in the capital outlay fund, which includes buildings, equipment, construction, additions and debt service, would be set aside. Only $383,000 would be used for the planning and design work of the district's seismically worst elementary school, Uintah, 1227 S. 1500 East, and East High School.
The construction on Uintah would begin in 1992, but work wouldn't start on East until 1993.
Work schedules on the city schools would be staggered over the next two decades. Construction on Highland High School would be in 1996, while West High School would be the following year.
The district's five intermediate schools would be renovated in the late 1990s. The bulk of the district's 27 elementary schools wouldn't be scheduled for repairs until after the year 2000.
The superintendent's report said the budget does not include any program improvements and only attempts to fund existing programs with very little increase for inflation. Harmer called the budget "austere."
The proposed budget means that the district's per-student expenditure would be $3,204.97, or $205.97 more than last year.
The average Utah per-student expenditure is $2,823. The national average is $4,243.
Teacher salaries have not been finalized. The district and teacher representatives are still negotiating, and Harmer said the district is "a long way" from settling with its 1,200 teachers.
The Utah Legislature agreed on money for a 4.8 percent increase in salaries and benefits for all state workers, including teachers. However, Harmer said, legislators moved some supplemental insurance coverage that was in a separate line item into regular pay package. That means there will be only 3.2 percent in new money to cover salary step increases, lane changes and benefits increases, he said.
Salt Lake school budget
STUDENTS - 25,287
SCHOOLS - 35
1991-92 General operations* $81.0 $77.7
Capital outlay 6.3 5.9
Special programs 9.9 9.6
Food services 4.6 4.4
*Costs of instruction
LARGEST REVENUE SOURCES:
Local sources** 42.7 42.1
State funds 31.7 30.0
Federal funds 4.2 4.3
**Mainly property taxes
TOTAL BUDGET: $102.4 $97.8
PROPERTY TAX HIKE - YES
An average increase of about $33.18 on an $80,000 home.