In the Robin Hood story, the emphasis is on what he took from the rich to divide among the poor. Nobody remembers that the poor got that way because the overlords of Nottingham reduced them to penury through unrealistic taxes.
As one of the "Sherwood Forest folk," I see the Legislature's attempt at equalization of capital-outlay taxes as a fair way to get closer to equitable funding for all of the children of Utah.How much effort the taxpayers of a school district make to provide for their own students should certainly be a factor in determining fairness.
Davis District taxpayers have a local school tax rate of .009525 - highest in the state, while Salt Lakers pay a rate of .008373, putting them 17th on the list of 40. Until Salt Lake City raised taxes this year to pay for seismic safety, the district was 32nd in the rankings.
Assessed valuation per pupil in Salt Lake City is $260,006, compared with $70,224 in Davis, which ranks it 36th among the 40 districts.
Debt-free Salt Lake boasts of a pay-as-you-go financial approach. The district has without question been prudent and frugal. But it also has had the advantage of increasing tax income and decreasing student numbers in the past few decades, in comparison to the high-growth districts.
Although Salt Lake District saw small growth this year, it has been in a retrenchment mode for some time, closing schools as the lure of suburbia pulled population north and south of the city. Davis District has almost as much bonding debt as the State of Utah and still is pressed to house all of its students.
Simply put, Davis' homes can't possibly generate the tax income that Salt Lake's business/industry base provides. The truth is, they can tax the daylights out of us poor Sherwood Foresters and not raise near enough to deal with our needs. Short of having everyone in the state move into one of the "rich" districts, equalization of local taxes is the only fair way to provide equity for children.
Perhaps the most cogent argument for equalization of capital-outlay taxes is that income taxes, a much greater source of school funding, already are equalized. I pay more income taxes than property taxes and they go to support all of the children in Utah. Education is a common good that we all should support.
Davis, like Salt Lake, has many children in impoverished homes and many schools with high turnover, partly becauses of the military installations in its boundaries.
Davis has traditionally received federal money to offset the school impacts of the federal presence. That money has dwindled in recent years, although the "federal impact" students continue to enroll in Davis schools.
Some of Davis' most significant growth coincided with the Legislature's move to cut back on support of school building. Now, many Davis year-round schools have reached capacity even for that option.
My bottom line: my grandchildren who do or will attend Davis schools and deserve the same amenities as children in any other district in Utah.