Ogden School District OKs tax hike, second increase in a row
OGDEN — Ogden school officials have approved a tax hike that’s meant to generate extra funds for special education programs.
The Ogden school board unanimously approved the increase — which follows a tax hike last year — after a public hearing on the plans last Thursday that generated comments from two people, both critical of the rise. The jump will boost property tax collections in the district by 5.3%, from the $45.37 million the system would be able to otherwise collect under state-proposed tax rates to $47.79 million, according to figures from the Weber County Clerk/Auditor’s office.
The district’s total budget for 2023-2024 amounts to $206.69 million.
The Weber School District approved a 13.7% tax hike on Aug. 2 that will boost property tax collections into district coffers to $89.18 million, up from the $78.44 million the district would otherwise be able to collect without the increase. The Ogden School District serves the city of Ogden while the Weber system serves the rest of the county.
“Special education has been drastically underfunded for a long, long time,” Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen said at last Thursday’s meeting. What’s more, he said special education students account for about 15% of the student body in the district compared to 11% t0 12% in the state as a whole, which bolsters the need for special education funding.
Steve Van Wagoner, a candidate this year for the Ogden City Council, was one of the two speakers critical of the rise. He said property owners, particularly those on fixed incomes, are reaching the limit of their ability to pay more taxes. “We are at capacity,” he said.
He pointed his finger at the district’s support of City of Ogden initiatives to create special taxing districts that funnel new property tax revenue in target areas from taxing entities like the school system, city and Weber County to economic development efforts. “We can’t afford the (special districts) anymore,” he said.
School board member Arlene Anderson said she has heard from constituents wondering if tax increases are going to become a regular thing. “It’s a hard decision for us to make. I just want the community to see we weigh everything,” she said.
Zane Woolstenhulme, the district’s business administrator, noted that the district tax hike in 2022, meant to bolster pay for teachers, was the first in five years. It seems to have paid off, he added, noting that the district had to replace just 35 departing teachers for the 2023-2024 school year, down from 100 last year.
“That was a big investment, but it’s paying dividends,” he said. Furthermore, he said, tax increases are perhaps the only way to keep up with inflationary price increases.
With the increase, the Ogden School District share of school taxes will result in a bill for the owner of a home worth $406,000, the average, 0f $1,220.56, up from $1,158.93 at the rate allowed by the state without a hike. Factoring reductions in state and charter school taxes property owners also have to pay on top of local school taxes, however, the total school tax bill on an average valued home will dip $19.49 versus 2022 to $1,566.45.
SCHOOL REBUILD PLANS SPUR WSD HIKE
The Weber School District tax hike, approved unanimously by the school board, aims to generate funds to help with the planned rebuild of Roosevelt Elementary in Washington Terrace. Funds from a voter-approved bond in 2021 were supposed to cover the cost of the project, but three other new school construction plans — also to be funded from the bonding — will cost more than anticipated, which prompted the district to seek new revenue streams.
The cost of the Roosevelt rebuild has gone up from the initial estimate of $37 million to $51.7 million. At the same time, the total cost of the four bond projects now totals around $338 million, $59 million more than the bond voters approved.
District spokesman Lane Findlay said about 100 people attended the Aug. 2 tax hearing on the Weber School District tax hike proposal, with about 25 speakers addressing school officials, half in support of the increase, half opposed.
“Most of the support came from people in the Roosevelt Elementary community who really want to see the school rebuilt. Those who were against the increase seemed to have more general concerns regarding tax rate increases,” Findlay said.
Also last week, officials from the Central Weber Sewer Improvement District approved a tax hike that will bolster collections for 2023 to $11.78 million, up from the $10.84 million the system would otherwise be able to collect. The increase aims to help cover the rising costs of chemicals the system uses to treat sewage water.