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`ROBIN HOOD' LAW WOULD AID S. SANPETE SCHOOLS

In its first year, the so-called Robin Hood legislation wouldn't take any South Sanpete School District students out of their mobile classrooms, but the $30,000 it would give the district would pay about half the cost of a bus.

By its fifth year, however, the legislation, designed to help equalize capital outlay money among the state's school districts - the money used to buy items like classrooms and school buses - would bring around $100,000 to South Sanpete. The legislation is being re-evaluated by Gov. Norm Bangerter.That kind of money will help the state's poorest school district - poorest on the basis of ability to raise money through property taxes - meet ongoing classroom needs.

Last year, the district was able to construct classroom wings on two schools by adding more than $1 million to its bonded indebtedness, but over a 10-year period, the number of students South Sanpete serves has been growing at around 5 percent annually.

And that amounts to three new classrooms a year to keep up with growth, explaining the presence of mobile classrooms at several schools.

"We haven't been able to catch up," Superintendent Lewis Mullins says. "But passage of the Robin Hood would help." And he adds that the 1992 Legislature helped in other ways, too. For one thing, it increased the WPU (Weighted Pupil Unit) from $1,408 to $1,490.

That increase will bring about $170,000 more to South Sanpete to support the basic school program. The funds will probably translate into a 4 percent increase in the employee compensation package, Mullins says.

This doesn't mean that employees will get 4 percent increases in next year's contracts because items like insurance and Social Security have to be accounted for in adjusting the salary schedule.

South Sanpete will apparently receive around $20,000 in new money for reductions in second-grade size, $50,000 more for special education and $20,000 more for vocational education, according to Mullins.

"Under the circumstances," he said - meaning not raising taxes - "I think the Legislature did pretty well by education."

And the passage of the Robin Hood bill, he adds, opens up a promising new financing pathway for most of the state's school districts.