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Utah Considers Property Tax Hike

by Joe Monzon, Denver, March 2015

 

Utah's basic property tax rate hasn't been adjusted in almost 20 years. Legislation is now under consideration to raise the rate to help equalize funding for schools.

 

Public Versus Charter Schools

 

School districts throughout Utah must fund both public and charter schools. A portion of every public school district's revenues are used to fund charters at the state's average rate per student, which is $1,746. The problem is more than half of all public school districts earn less than that for their own students.

 

Senate Bill 97 raises revenue for poorer school districts by increasing the state portion of property taxes by $75 million. If approved and signed into law, it will provide every school district with at least the same per-student funding amount as charter schools.

 

Why a Tax Hike Now?

 

Critics have asked why a tax increase is necessary when the state has a budget surplus. SB 97 sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond told the Deseret News the reason is simple.

 

"Surplus funds are mostly one-time appropriations and ongoing funds are needed to address school funding inequity throughout the state. I believe that this is the best option we have, considering the context that while we are in surplus, we cannot guarantee or count on that surplus every year," Osmond said.