Even though the Salt Lake School District's status-quo, $108.4 million budget will bring essentially the same local tax money to city schools, property-tax payers may see bills $10 higher on an $80,000 home.

But while city taxpayers may face higher property taxes, they may be compensated with lower fees on their vehicles, depending on the vehicles' values, Salt Lake District Business Administrator W. Gary Harmer said.Beginning this year, the state has moved from locally assessed taxes on registered vehicles to a uniform statewide fee. In some counties, that means taxes collected on personal property will drop, while the taxes will increase in others. Counties such as Salt Lake that will lose revenue under the new system are allowed to make up lost revenue by adjusting the certified tax rate on property taxes.

To collect the same revenue as last year, Salt Lake County calculated the certified tax rate for city schools at .008546, raising it from last year's .008373. On an $80,000 home that translates into an increase from $448 in school taxes to $458.

The Salt Lake Board of Education approved the superintendent's $108.4 million budget Tuesday night. No citizens spoke in favor or against the budget. Because the board did not exceed the certified tax rate - even though it was higher that last year's - it did not officially raise taxes. Therefore, the school board does not have to have a truth-in-taxation hearing in August.

The plan adopted Tuesday will be the official 1992-93 budget. It includes teacher and other employee pay raises of 3 percent.

Last year, school board members faced scores of angry taxpayers in a public hearing after the board approved a steep increase to fix city schools for earthquake safety. The owner of an $80,000 home had a $66.57 tax increase, of which $53.60 was to pay for seismically retrofitting the schools.

Even though city taxpayers already have made the first installment on the plan's 20 years of higher taxes, the seismic project is now in limbo because of the passage of the state's new equalization law.

Equalization, or the "Robin Hood" law, captures local revenue from "rich" school districts and redistributes it to "poor" school districts. Salt Lake City loses $625,000 out of its 1992-93 budget to equalization. Salt Lake City's yearly loss to equalization increases steadily for eight years up to almost $4 million annually. District officials have said the seismic retrofitting timetable will double to 40 years unless they can find additional revenue through tax increases, bonding or a combination.

However, school board members made no decisions Tuesday on how to deal the effects of equalization. They first want to see what happens with a possible lawsuit. Salt Lake and other school districts adversely affected by equalization may sue the state. Salt Lake had planned a joint meeting of the affected school districts last week but that session was postponed to give lawyers more time, said staff coordinator Jan Keller.

The $108.4 million budget does not include any program improvements with a small increase for inflation. "It looks like this year's budget," Harmer said.

One program with a significant increase is English as a Second Language. The board agreed to add $225,000 to the tentative ESL budget of $707,214. In budget discussions, ESL administrators and teachers said their budgets are strained. A rapidly increasing number of immigrants have located in the city, and their children come to school speaking limited or no English, they reported.



Salt Lake school budget

Students Schools

24,908 35

Largest expenditures

(in millions) proposed

1991-92 1992-93

General operations $82.3 $84.9

Capital outlay $6.3 $5.7

Food Service $4.7 $4.8

Largest Revenue Sources:

Local sources* $43.1 $43.2

State funds $31.3 $34.1

Federal funds $4.9 $4.7

Total Budget $108.0 $108.4

*Mainly property taxes

Property tax rate:

1991-92 .008373 1992-93 .008546

Property tax hike: no

An average tax of about $458 on a $80,000 home.