SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to help school districts more quickly and accurately receive the money appropriated to them was unanimously advanced Thursday by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.

HB49, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, makes amendments to the state's voted and board levy program, which distributes supplemental funding to school districts whose property tax revenues fall short of a state-guaranteed minimum.

Because of a timing mechanism in statute related to the voted and board levy distributions, there is often an "appropriations orphan" left on the books that should be, but is unable to be, distributed to school districts, Handy said. These leftover money total between $20 million and $30 million, which remains in account at the Utah State Office of Education, he said.

"These are funds that are rightly due to these school districts that can't be appropriated," Handy said. "It's really an acceleration program to get the money out and get it working."

The bill would require all appropriated voted and board levy funds to be distributed each year and would raise the minimum amount of funds guaranteed to each district to ensure the distribution of those funds. 

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Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, described the bill as "much simpler than it sounds." He emphasized that the bill would in no way affect the taxes that property owners would pay, but would instead solve a longstanding problem in which school districts have not been able to access the money owed to them.

"This is really, very simply allowing us to use money that's already there," Thatcher said. "This is a great, great bill."

The bill passed the committee unanimously after brief discussion. It has already been passed by the House and will now go before the full Senate for consideration.

Benjamin Wood