BRIGHAM CITY -- Officials here are still grappling with how to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate property tax refunds.
Final decisions are still pending, but county officials have all but ruled out layoffs and a tax increase, while educators can't say the same for either.
The Box Elder School District took a $1.3 million hit while county coffers lost more than $340,000 in the recent refunds after property tax appraisals were adjusted downward by the state for the Union Pacific Railroad and the Ruby pipeline.
"When you get shot in the foot, you're not going to be able to walk that well right away," said Box Elder County Auditor Tom Kotter of the refund blows to the county's $29 million budget.
Among the possibilities for covering the loss is a modest tax hike, which would show up on tax notices later this year as a judgment levy; layoffs, which Kotter deemed least likely; and dipping into the county's reserve fund, the most likely option.
"The county commissioners get to make that decision," Kotter said. "We'll cover all the bases of the options available to them."
Things are a little more dire at the school district with its $91 million budget.
Superintendent Ron Wolff issued a two-page statement earlier this month after the news hit in December of the Union Pacific and Ruby pipeline jolts.
"This is a great deal of money," he wrote of the loss he listed at $1,338,953. "But ... the effect on our daily operations will not be as great as one might anticipate."
Instead, he said, the impact will be in the areas of debt service and capital outlays.
But Wolff said the drain on reserves in those budgets "means tax rates could be adjusted upwards during the next tax year."
District Business Administrator Rod Cook called a tax hike "highly likely," especially if the state education appropriation isn't increased, which district officials are seeking from the Legislature.
But state appropriations haven't had a significant increase in five or six years, Cook said. "There aren't too many other places to go," he said.
"We're tying to protect the classroom as much as possible."
While Kotter said county layoffs aren't likely, Cook said they are with the school district.
But not in the current school year, he said, and it's anticipated they could be covered through attrition in August.
With retirements and resignations, the district hires 30, even 60, new teachers a year Cook said, "so that gives us some room to maneuver."
Meanwhile, county officials are still catching their breath after avoiding a potential $2.9 million hit in federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, funds, for 2014 recently restored by Congress.
They worry about the fate of the PILT program for 2015.
The school district only receives a tiny amount of PILT money, especially compared to the county, where the $2.9 million in PILT is the largest by far of any Wasatch Front county -- amounting to 10 percent of the county budget.
Even with word late last month that PILT will be coming after all this year, the county continues to hold off on some big ticket items till the PILT funds actually arrive in June.
That includes a $185,000 road grader, a $34,000 mobile back-up power generator and $450,000 in upgrades to the county fairgrounds in Garland.
Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister.