PROVO — All three of Utah County's school districts held truth-in-taxation hearings this month after learning local property taxes will bring in more revenues than last year.

"Normally, all three school districts don't go through (truth-in-taxation hearings) in the same year," said Cary McConnell of the Utah County's Clerk/Auditor's Office. "From an outsider looking in, it may be interesting that all districts are doing it this year."

Property tax rates for two school districts — Provo and Nebo — actually went down, but the overall amounts collected by the districts increased, and the hearings were legally required.

Many residents will pay more in taxes because the values of their homes increased.

On average, Utah County homes increased 25 percent in value: Properties in northern Utah County increased 24.9, Orem/Provo increased 28.5 percent, and southern Utah County increased 20.8 percent.

"A lot of that is driven by the cost of land," Alpine Superintendent Vern Henshaw said. "Construction and labor is at a premium."

In addition to property taxes from existing homes and businesses, taxes from new construction also contribute to the increased revenues.

Last year the Alpine School District generated about $88 million in property taxes, or about 15 percent of the district's general fund. The district estimates it will collect $111 million next year.

Alpine business administrator Rob Smith said some of the new tax money is being used to build new schools, and to remodel and upgrade existing schools.

Three years ago, the district could build a school for $90-$100 a square foot.

"We're building schools now, I think with the high schools, $165-$175 a square foot," Smith said. "You'll never really know until you pay a final bill."

If the Board of Education halted planned construction of two elementary schools and one junior high, tax rates would be lower — an estimated 0.006529, Smith said.

On the other hand, last year when the district was drumming up support for the current construction plan, administrators had anticipated a rate of 0.007393 for this year. They were able to keep this year's tax rate of 0.006937 lower because of increased valuations.

In Provo, the city's assessed value was 3.4 billion last year. This year, property was assessed at $4.2 billion.

Last year, the city's school district received $21 million in property taxes. This year, it will likely be about $22.3 million, despite the tax rate decrease, because of growth and higher property valuations, according to a presentation by district business administrator Kerry Smith.

The district has been working on a long-term budgeting strategy to maintain facilities, offer competitive pay and benefits, and improve academics and student and employee accountability through data and employee professional development.

Despite the decrease in this year's tax rate, Nebo School District will still get almost $6 million more in revenue than last year.

Last year, property taxes provided $34.3 million; this year it will provide $40.2 million, district business administrator Tracy Olsen said.

The state helps the district compensate for its relatively small property tax revenue. But because the higher valuations, Nebo will lose $1.7 million in state money.

"If the district collects more money locally, the state puts in less," Olsen said.

About $2 million in new money will be used to pay off bond debt, he said.

Contributing: Amy Choate-Nielsen

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