The Duchesne County School District will lose an estimated $1.8 million over the next eight years due to an equalization bill passed last week by the Utah Legislature.
The loss comes on top of an anticipated immediate revenue drop of $1.5 million in the district's general operating fund because of a recent change in the formula used to assess taxes on oil and gas property.Under the terms of HB65, nick-named the "Robin Hood" bill, money will be taken from the capital outlay budgets of "rich" school districts and redistributed among the "poor" districts.
According to District Superintendent Dennis Mower, Duchesne has ironically been tagged as one of 15 "rich" districts because is is virtually free of debt thanks to its pay-as-you-go building policies. In addition, although the county is sparsely populated, it has a large tax base due to the oil and gas industry.
Mower said he feels the bill basically punishes school districts who stay clear of debt.
"I recognize there are many needs in Utah and certain areas have difficulties raising funds. But we are being penalized because we are not bonded on building proj-ects. We have kept our tax rates relatively low compared to other districts because we have been on a pay-as-you-go plan."
Neighboring Uintah County School District, for example, won't have to contribute any money to the equalization fund for the next four years because they are currently paying off a bond on their new high school, Mower said.
"In a nutshell, the Robin Hood bill means that since the money will be recaptured from the district's capital outlay budget, Du-chesne County will have less money for building projects. Should we need new construction we would be forced to bond to obtain the necessary capital."
Beginning with the 1992-93 school year, the district will lose $48,312, from their capital outlay budget. In the 1999-2000 school year alone the district will turn over an estimated $482,153 to the equalization fund.
Mower said there's no doubt the Robin Hood bill is very damaging to the school district. District officials lobbied heavily against the measure.
Taxes in the district are already expected to raise this year by approximately seven percent to cover short falls caused by the tax reassessments on oil and gas property.
Mower said it appears the district can handle the anticipated decline in the capital outlay budget for the first four years, but after that the impact is uncertain.
"Hopefully we can meet these needs without raising taxes," he said.