FARMINGTON — The Davis School District Board of Education approved a property tax increase Tuesday evening after a Truth-in-Taxation public hearing that lasted one hour. More than 20 community members spoke at the hearing.
A slight majority of those who spoke were in favor of the tax increase.
Property taxes on a home worth $275,000 will increase about $4.50 a month, for an increase of about $54 annually, according to a district press release sent in May.
Property taxes on a home worth $338,000 — the average value of a home in Davis School District — will increase $4.90 a month, or $58.74 annually, from an annual total of $915.19 to $973.93, according to a public notice sent by the district on July 10.
Homes are taxed at 58% of their value, which is why there is only about a $5 difference in the increased amount in annual property tax for a home worth $275,000 and one worth $338,000.
The tax increase will help support a 4.75% increase in teacher pay, bringing a beginning teacher’s salary to $43,798.
The district’s business administrator Craig Carter said that the district’s salary negotiations arrived at the 4.75% increase after Canyons School District and Murray City School District raised their first-year teacher salary to $50,000.
Davis School District doesn’t have the commercial value that some of the districts in Salt Lake have, Carter said, before the public comment began at the hearing.
“With Canyons, they could do a property tax increase, and for every 1% increase, they’ll get a lot more money than we do with that same 1%,” Carter said. “That’s why we’ve been asked, ‘Why don’t you match the $50,000 number?’ ... We don’t have the capacity to do that. We can max out our levies, and we still couldn’t generate enough money to reach $50,000. So what we’re trying to do is to get as close as we can and provide other benefits to entice our great teachers to stay and to attract new teachers.”
Sheryl Allen, former member and president of the Davis Board of Education and former state legislator, spoke at the hearing.
“When I looked at that comparable chart (of teacher salaries at districts across the Wasatch front), I want good teachers teaching my grandchildren in this district,” Allen said, “and so I stand in support of this (tax increase), although I know it may be painful for many, and it will be painful for my husband and I. But I think that having good teachers is one of the very most important and best things that we can do.”
Allen went on to say the board’s decision was difficult because the state Legislature has not adequately funded public education to mitigate the funding disparities among districts.
She also mentioned the Utah legislative tax reform task force that’s considering a change in the state’s use of income tax. Currently, the state constitution requires that income taxes go toward public and higher education.
Allen said the task force is considering submitting to the public a constitutional amendment that would allow income tax to go toward other state expenditures.
“I personally think that would be a very bad idea because of the very issue you’re facing tonight,” Allen said. “That is the fact that there’s a teacher shortage, there’s competition for good teachers, fewer people are going into education. We need the very, very best in front of our children if we’re going to continue to have a healthy economy.”
Allen urged community members to contact their legislators to oppose this amendment and encourage adequate state funding for education.
Yvonne Speckman, a veteran teacher at Buffalo Point Elementary who is president of the Davis Education Association and part of the salary negotiation team, shared Allen’s concern about funding from the Legislature.
“As Ms. Allen stated, our Legislature has let us down, and they had a surplus year,” Speckman said. “I know that this is not going to be an easy thing to decide ... but I also know that being in the position that I am as a teacher and an association leader, that we’re losing good teachers faster than we can get them in the classroom.”
Ronald Mortensen, who represented Citizens for Tax Fairness, opposed the increase due to the board’s recent decision to support the extension of Farmington’s Redevelopment Area (RDA).
“If the district really does need more revenue, then why did it give up $2.5 million in revenue that was due it from the Farmington Station Park RDA earlier this year?” Mortensen asked. “We’re asking you instead of giving money away to keep that money ... The reason they had to have (the RDA was) they said it was too high risk for the businessman to do it. There is no reason that the school children should be supporting high-risk ventures.”