A tax law passed by the 1998 Legislature freezes the Tooele Board of Education's leeway resolution that could have brought the growing district $400,000 over the next year.

The property tax restriction law requires the resolution, approved last February, be put to a June 23 vote. The law requires voter approval for any tax increases during 1998.However, district officials say they will not put the board leeway on the ballot. Instead, the district plans to wait to implement the leeway next year when the law expires. The leeway would add $22 in property tax on a $100,000 home and go into effect July 1, 1999, when the state fiscal year begins.

The board leeway, which was to take effect this July, was to pad a voted leeway proposal to add $33 in property tax to a $100,000 home. The voted leeway proposal, which had been slated for May 5, will be on the June 23 primary election ballot as the new law requires.

"It hurts us big time," Richard Tolley, district business administrator, said of the new law.

"I think the citizens . . . see we're missing out on thousands of dollars in state support that comes with voted and board leeways. If it doesn't pass, it doesn't mean we will close our doors, but we'll have to make some hard decisions."

Leeways qualify school districts for additional state funds to help fund public education. While commonly subjected to a public vote, school boards may approve such limited tax increases.

The new tax law, which took effect without Gov. Mike Leavitt's signature, is aimed at preventing taxing entities from imposing taxes without voter approval, particularly through the county option sales tax that took effect this year, said Sen. Steven Poulton, R-Holladay, who sponsored the bill.

The law requires that taxing entities shifting parts of the property tax to sales tax give a corresponding decrease in property tax, Poulton said. Such entities at times have filled in the property tax decrease with an unapproved tax. Taxpayers may not notice because their tax bills remain the same.

Poulton says the law isn't intended to harm schools, just protect taxpayers.

"I can't say whether Tooele School District has a problem or doesn't have a problem," he said. "But if those guys in Tooele need money that badly, the people will support them. If the people do not support them, (elected officials) shouldn't (raise taxes)."

Tooele voters last November defeated a $45 million bond proposal to build two new secondary schools in the northeast quadrant and a voted leeway proposal.

District schools are bursting at the seams. Tooele High School, for instance, is cramming 1,600 students in a school built for 1,200.