The Salt Lake City School Board discussed the possibility of a property tax increase last night. District officials say a 3.47 percent increase is needed to sustain current programs and provide a salary increase for teachers.
The property tax increase amounts to an additional $12.65 a year for a taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home.
Janet Roberts is the business administrator for Salt Lake City School District. She says even with a 2 percent increase in per pupil spending the state set aside for public schools this year, there isn’t enough money to cover the district’s obligations and also provide a cost of living increase for employees. Roberts says 88 percent of the District’s budget is in salaries and employee benefits, so without a tax increase it would mean teacher layoffs.
“But where specifically we haven’t made that determination because our board is very supportive of this tax increase," Roberts says.
State education dollars are distributed based on enrollment. And because enrollment in Salt Lake City schools is flat, the district gets fewer dollars than schools with higher enrollment.
At least one board member proposed balancing the budget by closing schools with low enrollment. Roberts says that’s always an option, but….
“We’ve had 16 million worth of ongoing and $10 million worth of one time budget cuts that we’ve made," Roberts says. "Significant budget cuts. And never through that process has the board considered closing schools.”
Board member Rosemary Emery suggested the district is spending too much money on Career and Technical Education. Districts get additional funding for supplying a certain amount of teachers in CTE. But Emery says it may not be worth it.
“We’re losing a lot of money just because we’re losing a lot of kids," Emery says. "And I keep looking at this and going, are students dropping out of school because they’re not getting their one and a half credits of CTE? Well clearly not. Yet that is where we’re putting so much emphasis in money from the district.”
The budget hearing is scheduled for June 4th when the board will vote on the tax increase. The last time the district approved a tax hike was in 2011.