Having dusted themselves off from last election's defeat, Tooele School District officials are counting on voters Tuesday to support a property tax increase that would bring schools about $900,000 over the next year.
The proposed voted leeway would add $33 to the property tax on a $100,000 home, bringing in about $600,000. The state would match $17 per $100,000, or $305,000 in total support funds."I'm very optimistic," Superintendent James Buckley said. "We desperately need this money for maintenance and operations of all of our school facilities. The growth that we are currently experiencing - without this money, we're not going to be able to hire the teachers necessary for all of our new kids."
The extra revenue would fund opening Anna Smith Elementary in Wendover, 10 classrooms each at East and Stansbury elementaries and a multipurpose room at Harris Elementary, said Assistant Superintendent Richard Tolley, also the district business administrator. Another $200,000 would fund future construction.
Revenue estimates are based on a projected district valuation of $1 billion. Tooele is one of four Utah school districts not participating in the voted leeway program.
But some residents say they are taxed enough.
"I know that the schools in Tooele are growing in proportional numbers and I know some needs need to be addressed. I also know we have people who cannot afford any more of a tax increase. For us, it will be a financial burden," said Janeen Carter, whose husband, Jeff Carter, has run for public office.
"I feel like we are being taxed to death," said Tammy McNeil, a Grantsville mother of three who, like Carter, home-schools her children. "They need to go back and cut their budget. When we have a problem with our budget, we cut back. We don't go asking the neighbors for money to supply our needs."
McNeil points to the district administration's relatively new, seven-vehicle fleet as a possible place to cut back.
Three new vehicles, plus Buckley's used vehicle, were purchased over the past year and cost about $15,800 apiece, Tolley said. Nearly every district administrator in Utah receives a car or some type of travel or mileage reimbursement, said Carol Lear, attorney for the State Office of Education. Fleets are common in local and state governments as well.
Buckley says the district has no place to nip and tuck except via layoffs.
Projected leeway funds have been worked into the district's $45 million 1998-99 budget proposal. The budget will be reworked if election results warrant.
District officials are concerned about burgeoning school enrollments and limited space. Tooele High School, for instance, is cramming 1,600 students into a school built for 1,200.
A school board-appointed citizens committee has recommended the district find $8 million for a new middle school, $8.8 million for Tooele High remodeling and more than $4 million to add rooms to Tooele Junior High, Grantsville High, Grantsville Middle and Ibapha Elementary.
But the district doesn't have that money on hand. And recent attempts to pinpoint additional funds have run into roadblocks.
Last November, voters defeated a voted leeway proposal and a $45 million bond proposal to build two new secondary schools in the northeast quadrant.
Three months later, the Tooele Board of Education approved a board leeway that would add $22 in property tax on a $100,000 home. The board leeway, which was to take effect in July and pad the voted leeway proposal, was designed to bring in $400,000 for the district over the next year.
But a new property tax restriction law requires voter approval for any tax increases during 1998. Instead of putting the board resolution on the ballot, the district will wait until 1999, when the law expires, to implement it.
Should the voted leeway fail June 23, the district will rework the budget. Should it pass, truth in taxation hearings are scheduled for August.
District budget hearings will be held June 30.
"Anybody who would like to is more than welcome to come in and look over our budget," Buckley said. "There are no more (funding) options out there. There are no new funding sources that we're not using."