More than $8 million has been set aside to cool Salt Lake high schools, perhaps by spring.

The funds are included in a $163.2 million budget - $18.5 million more than for the current year - passed by Salt Lake City Board of Education Tuesday. More than half of the budget funds instruction.The 1998-99 budget, effective July 1, also includes a tax hike, as the district must refund more than $2 million to US WEST under a State Tax Commission judgment. To recoup funds, the owner of a $100,000 house will pay $9.34 more in property taxes.

The district for two years has set aside funds to implement air conditioning. The high schools could be cooled as soon as next spring.

A lack of air conditioning in all but nine of the district's 36 schools incited public outcry last fall, when some classroom temperatures neared the 100-degree mark, making some teachers and students sick.

Since then, the school board has voted to seek bonds, tentatively in May 1999, to cool all schools by 2006 and speed up ongoing retrofits for a 2008 completion. The amount of bonds is undetermined, but talks have centered around $90 million with no tax hike.

Also budgeted is $7.6 million for a new northwest area elementary school and a 4.5 percent increase in per-pupil expenditures, bringing the total to $3,488, keeping the district among the state's upper echelon for per-pupil spending.