Emery school district to ask for tax shift of funds
The Emery County School District will have a proposition on the ballot for the June 27 primary election. The intent is to ask the Emery County voters for an .0008 percent increase in the voted leeway. They intend to offset the tax increase with a reduction in the capital outlay rate which will keep the taxes paid by county residents level.
Superintendant Kirk Sitterud said the school district will be sending information out to the citizens in the county explaining the need for the proposition on the ballot.
He explained the state auditor has instructed the school district to transfer funds from capital outlay to maintenance and operation. The funds will be shifted so the school district can continue to provide services. He explained that without an election, $1 million would have to be cut from the budget. The need for this shift is urgent so the next school year will not be affected.
Business administrator for the district, Ross Huntington stressed the need for the election in June so the voters can authorize the tax as soon as possible.
In August the district sets the tax rates for the year. In July the district would run the ads advertising the tax increase and on August 16 a public hearing will be held about the increase. That is when the tax increase would come into effect.
Huntington said it is just a matter of educating the voters what the tax increase is about. It's not really an increase but just an authorization to shift funds.
They have been to all of the schools to educate the staffs there and hopefully get the word out to the public on the situation. A brochure will also be mailed to all citizens and will go out on June 9.
Commissioner Gary Kofford had concerns about the time frame to get the people educated on the matter as it is just three weeks until the primary election.
The school administrators said they are well aware of the time frame involved and will work diligently in getting the word out. They have a school board meeting on June 14 and the public is welcome to that meeting to ask questions.
Huntington said it is crucial they receive approval from voters for this tax shift. If it is not approved the district could lose 20-25 positions and supplies and activities would be cut. He stressed the point that it is just a tax shift from capital outlay funds to operation and maintenance. The capital outlay taxes will be lowered to offset the increase in operation and maintenance taxes.
Sitterud said, "It is critical this be on the ballot in June. We cannot wait another year. We will put a question and answer session on the agenda for our June 14 meeting."
The primary on June 27 will be a Republican primary for the two commissioner candidates Jeff Horrocks and Eric Anderson. A separate ballot will be provided for the non Republican voters for the school district proposition.
The school district will pay for the cost of the ballot. Superintendent Sitterud said, "The people of Emery County have always been very supportive of the Emery County School District. People understand and appreciate what we do for the students. They are supportive even when it comes to tax increases. During the 1970s the Emery County School District faced the challenge of meeting the demands of student enrollment growth during the construction and early operation of the power plants in the county. New buildings were constructed and existing buildings were overhauled, renovated and expanded. Employee numbers were expanded to meet the needs associated with the new growth. All of these factors required funds from capital outlay accounts to be used for supervision of construction, purchase of maintenance supplies, costs of utilities for the new facilities, and for personnel services for care and maintenance of the buildings.
"During the past 15 years student enrollment has declined by nearly one-third (more than 1,200 students). School district buildings, constructed during the growth period, are now nearly 30 years old. Utility costs have increased significantly (50 percent in the last five years alone). During this time the district has continued to use capital outlay funding to care for and operate these facilities.
"Under audit directives, school districts can no longer use capital outlay funds to cover the utility and salary costs associated with maintaining facilities. Funding for these purposes must now be transferred to the basic maintenance and operation funding accounts, which will have significant budgeting implications.
"In order to meet this challenge the Board of Education has approved submitting to the registered voters at the primary election scheduled for June 27, the question of authorizing an increase in the leeway tax to assist in payment of operation and maintenance expenses for its schools. At the same time the school district will reduce the capital outlay levy by the same amount. The result is a shift in revenue - with no overall tax increase to the citizens of Emery County.
"If approved, the voted leeway will provide maintenance and operation funding to assist in the payment of necessary operation and maintenance expenses for school buildings previously covered by capital outlay funds. This will enable the school district to continue to provide essential care of facilities without creating a significant negative impact on the educational services for students, and without raising overall taxes.
"The school district wants the citizens of Emery County to clearly understand that the voted leeway will not result in a tax increase," stated Superintendent Sitterud. "The election is being held for the purpose of receiving authorization to increase the voted leeway levy but the district will, at the same time, lower the capital outlay tax rate by an equivalent amount to offset the leeway increase. The voted leeway increase will therefore be absorbed by the decrease in capital outlay rates."
Superintendent Sitterud also indicates that if the election fails, the district will need to make significant budget cuts in the maintenance and operation funding categories to offset the shift of expenses from capital outlay to maintenance and operation funding categories.
"These cuts would have a major impact on decisions related to staffing levels and programs currently being funded from M & O funds. This would very likely result in a sizable number of staff reductions, which would increase class size. It would also mean that reductions would also need to be made in funding for textbooks, supplies, extra-curricular programs, and many supplemental programs for students," said Superintendent Sitterud.
Information is available by calling the school district office at 687-9846.