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Davis school board approves tax increase

Davis school board approves tax increase



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FARMINGTON — Saying children shouldn't be punished for starting school during difficult financial times, the Davis School District Board of Education on Tuesday approved a tax increase expected to generate $8.5 million this budget year.

The controversial 9.3 percent tax increase will cost homeowners in the district an estimated $68 on a $200,000 home.

With those additional funds, district officials say they will be able to decrease class size by one student per kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade class, as well as restore two class days that had been cut last year.

"Having spent 34 years in the classroom, I know what quality teaching is," board President Marian Storey said just prior to the 7-1 vote to approve the district's 2011-12 budget, including the tax increase. "I know what additional students mean in a classroom.


Having spent 34 years in the classroom, I know what quality teaching is. I know what additional students mean in a classroom.

–Marian Storey


"The step we are taking this evening is a very small step, but it is in the right direction," Storey said. "We owe it to students. We owe it to our teachers."

Peter Cannon was the lone board member to vote against the budget and tax increase, answering with "a Farmington tea party no" when asked for his vote.

Cannon took issue without the 1.5 percent pay increase for district employees authorized in the budget, a potential cut that he said would save $4.5 million. He also proposed cutting employee pay by 1.5 percent across the board to save another $4.5 million — which "would more than cover the cost of the proposed tax increase," he said.

"We do not need to increase tax rates to accommodate growth," Cannon said. "When we experience growth, we also have increased payment of property taxes from the new homes and businesses that accompany growth."

Cannon also criticized his colleagues for raising the local levy —

at a cost of nearly $8 a year to taxpayers — to utilize a new state law that will allow for future tax increases.

HB301, sponsored by Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, and approved during the Utah Legislature's 2011 general session, prohibits school district' tax levies from exceeding 0.0018 unless the tax rate is above that figure in 2011.


We do not need to increase tax rates to accommodate growth. When we experience growth, we also have increased payment of property taxes from the new homes and businesses that accompany growth.

–Peter Cannon


By raising the district tax rate, the Davis board has the ability to raise the rate up to 0.0025 — a rate that Cannon said would cost Davis taxpayers $148 per year.

"If we ever hope to stop increasing tax rates, now is the time," he said.

The board's action Tuesday night is the second tax increase levied by the school district in as many years. A year ago, the board approved a tax hike that amounted to a $60.50 property tax increase on a $200,000 home.

District officials say raising taxes has been necessary to offset budget challenges in recent years. Roughly $72 million in cuts and cost increases in the past 3½ years have resulted in the elimination of 187 full-time positions and nearly 100 part-time positions.

Those cuts have increased student-to-teacher ratios "beyond reason," board member Burke Larsen said.

In Davis elementary schools, that ratio has gone from 22 students for every teacher to nearly 27-to-1, Larsen said. In first grade, it's 25-to-1 — with 41 of the 232 classes exceeding that ratio, he said.

"I've become a fan of country music," Larsen said, "and in country music logic, we 'stack 'em deep, teach 'em cheap.'"

That trend, he said, needs to change.

"The erosion of individual attention, a condition of class sizes, can neither be ignored or feigned away," he said.


The erosion of individual attention, a condition of class sizes, can neither be ignored or feigned away.

–Burke Larsen


Nearly 300 Davis residents packed the district offices for a truth-in- taxation hearing last week. Opinions on the issue were pretty evenly divided — some expressing concern about additional taxes during difficult economic times and others touting the importance of educating their children.

Board Vice President Tamara Lowe said asking Davis County residents to pay more taxes during a recession isn't ideal.

"I'm on a fixed income," Lowe said. "I truly understand when people say these are difficult times."

But shortchanging a child's education, particularly the youngest students who are learning to read, would be a bad long-term investment, she said.

"I want these little kids coming into kindergarten, first, second and third grade to learn to read," Lowe said. "And in 20 years, I want them to be paying taxes in Davis County."

Board member Barbara Smith said she voted for the tax increase because she doesn't want to have to "apologize to (a high school student) who just happened to be in kindergarten during the recession."

"I've been to these classes," Smith said. "When you have 30 or 32 first- graders show up, there's a skill difference of up to five years in that group of kids — the amount of vocabulary they have, their reading level, how well they're doing.

"We're setting (teachers) up for failure because there are so many children and they can't be the quality teachers they were trained to be and the quality teachers we expect in Davis School District," she said.

The Davis School District encompasses 15 cities and Hill Air Force Base. As of April, enrollment at the district's 86 schools totaled 67,741. District officials estimate those numbers to top 75,000 in the next five years.

Email: jpage@ksl.com

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Jared Page

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